OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2015
Source: WH, 7-3-15
Taylor Stratton Elementary School
1:36 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Everybody, have a seat. Have a seat. Well, it’s good to be back in Nashville. (Applause.) I like Nashville. I don’t know if you noticed, I come back here quite a bit. (Laughter.)
First of all, can everybody please give Kelly a big round of applause? (Applause.) In addition to being wonderful and somewhat feisty spirit, as I have learned, she also has the distinction of possibly being the first person ever to be picked up at her house by a presidential motorcade. (Laughter.) Which I thought was pretty cool. Well, it turned out it was so close to the school, so we said, well, we might as well just swing by and get her. (Laughter.)
I want to thank the school for hosting us here today, because I know it’s a lot of work when we come into town. Very much appreciate everybody who was involved in that. You have a great Mayor, Karl Dean, who’s here, so please give Karl a big round of applause. (Applause.) There he is with his beautiful family right there. Family, stand up. Family, come on. There’s his family — yay! (Applause.) You can’t imagine what a family has to put up with when you’re in public service. So we really appreciate all of them.
Kelly already mentioned him, but he is somebody who is what you want out of a member of Congress. He works hard. He calls it like he sees them. He’s willing to do courageous stuff even when it’s not popular. He is a gentleman, one of my favorite people — Jim Cooper. (Applause.)
Also here is somebody who knows health care well, was a health care professional, a doctor and executive, and knows a little bit about politics because he used to be the former Majority Leader. When I first came in, in fact, he and I had a chance to work together on a number of things, and he’s been a terrific advocate on behalf of health care for a lot of people — Mr. Bill Frist. (Applause.)
So, with that, I think I’m going to take off my jacket, get a little more relaxed here. Part of the reason we came to Tennessee — in addition to me just liking Nashville and liking the state, generally, is that Tennessee has a history of innovation when it comes to health care, doing some very creative stuff — health care professionals, doctors, nurses, hospitals and executives working alongside nonprofits and the public sector to make sure that people are getting the very best health care they can, and also being able to control costs in a sensible way.
And thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the efforts of people like Jim who took some very tough votes, we now have about 166,000 Tennesseans who have health care who didn’t have it before. Folks like Kelly. (Applause.)
In addition to the people who are able to buy health insurance through the exchanges, through the marketplaces that were set up through the Affordable Care Act, I think it’s important to remember that everybody who has health insurance benefitted and continues to benefit from this law — even though a lot of folks don’t know it.
So if you have health insurance through the job, you’re able to keep your child on health insurance up until they’re 26 years old because of this law. (Applause.) And that’s provided millions of young people across the country with health insurance who may not have had it before. And that’s especially important as young people are transitioning, getting their first job — they may not always get a job that has full benefits, and this way they’re able to make sure that they stay healthy.
In addition, if you’re a senior citizen, or somebody who’s disabled, it turns out that you are getting discounts on your prescription drugs that you may not have noticed but are saving you potentially hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And there are millions of people across the country who are benefitting. That is because of this law.
If you don’t fall under those categories and you’re just somebody who’s got health insurance on the job, you now are protected, so that if you, let’s say, lost that job, or decided to move to a job or just start your own business, you can’t be prohibited from getting health insurance because of a preexisting condition. That’s a protection that everybody is benefitting from as a consequence of this law. (Applause.)
If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged just for being a woman as a consequence of this law. (Applause.) Last I checked, that’s about over half of the population, so that’s a pretty large constituency. You’re able to get free preventive care, including mammograms, as a consequence of this law, on your insurance.
So there are a whole host of things that fall under the Affordable Care Act that are benefitting 100 million, 150 million people. They just may not be aware of it. But what it’s done is it’s made health care stronger, more secure, and more reliable in America. You don’t always notice that until you need it — the way Kelly needed it. And that peace of mind, that understanding that if you get sick you’re not going to lose your job — or you’re not going to lose your house, you’re not going to lose all your savings, that you’re going to be able to get quality care — that is extraordinarily important.
I’ve said before, the scariest day of my life was when Sasha was three months old — my daughter — and she got meningitis. And the only reason we knew was because we had a great primary care physician and we were able to rush to an emergency room and the doctors and nurses did extraordinary work. And I was feeling helpless in that situation, but I thought, what would happen if I was in the same situation and I didn’t have health care, and I didn’t have a primary care physician to call in the middle of the night because we noticed she wasn’t crying the same way she usually cried? Because of the law we passed, there are parents who just aren’t going to have to face that. And that’s priceless.
Now, the good news is that, contrary to some of the expectations, not only has the law worked better than we expected, not only are 16 million people now getting health insurance that didn’t have it before, not only do we now have the lowest uninsured rate since we started tracking people and how much health insurance they had, but it’s actually ended up costing less than people expected. And health care costs have been held — the inflation on health care costs have actually proved to be the lowest — since the Affordable Care Act passed — in the last 50 years. So we’re actually seeing less health care inflation.
And part of the reason is because the law also encouraged health care providers and doctors, nurses, hospitals to start thinking more creatively about how can we get a better bang for our health care dollar. How can we make sure that rather than spending a lot of money on unnecessary tests or readmissions, we’re encouraging really high-quality care that’s good for the patient but also good for health care spending.
And this is another area where Tennessee actually has been really innovative. In fact, it won a $65 million grant for state innovation, where you’ve got hospitals and doctors and nurses and not-for-profits and other groups working together to figure out how can we, for example, identify potential diabetes patients early, make sure that they’re getting healthy quicker, preventing some of the worst elements of it. And even though it might involve a little extra spending on the front end, it turns out it saves hundreds of thousands of dollars on the back end; improves quality of life, improves quality of care, cuts costs, which is good for our economy, good for patients, and good for America.
So I’m feeling pretty good about how health care is going. (Applause.) And the thing I’ve never lost sight of, though, is that this is about people. This is not about politics, it’s not about Washington. It’s about families and loved ones, and the struggle and the fear that comes about when you have a serious illness and knowing that you’ve got not just your own family, but also a community that has your back.
And you heard Kelly talk about her story. Sitting right next to Kelly is a wonderful woman named Natoma Canfield, who came down with me today. She’s from Ohio, and she wrote a letter to me, pretty similar to Kelly’s, back in — five years ago, so back in 2010, when we were still in the middle of this fight to try to get health care that’s affordable for everybody. And Natoma had been diagnosed with cancer, had beat it back, then was buying health insurance on the individual market and it turned out that the costs were just skyrocketing so high that she just couldn’t afford it anymore.
And she wrote to me a passionate letter about why we needed to get this done. And I would always refer back to her letter whenever things got a little bleak and Congress wasn’t behaving as sensibly as Jim Cooper behaves. (Laughter.) And when we finally signed that bill, I had Natoma’s letter framed with the pen that I signed the bill with — one of the pen’s that I signed the bill with — just to remind me that this wasn’t about politics, this was about people.
And so I’m so glad Natoma is here, but I’m also glad that all of you are here. And part of what I’m hoping is that with the Supreme Court case now behind us, what we can do is — (applause) — I’m hoping that what we can do is now focus on how we can make it even better. Because it’s not as if we’ve solved all the problems in our health care system. America still spends more on health care than any other advanced nation and our outcomes aren’t particularly better.
And so we know there’s still a lot of waste in the system. We know that the quality of care isn’t always where it needs to be. And so my hope is, is that on a bipartisan basis, in places like Tennessee, but all across the country, we can now focus on what have we learned. What’s working? What’s not working? Are there further improvements we can make to improve quality? Are there more ways we can encourage people to get preventive care so that they don’t get sick in the first place, so that we have a actual health care system instead of a disease care system? Are there ways that we can do better to provide the support we need for outstanding primary care physicians and nurses, who oftentimes are coming out of school loaded up with debt and aren’t always getting the support that they need and aren’t always able to practice the way they want to practice?
There are huge areas of improvement and, frankly, there’s still a lot of people who aren’t insured. Part of the design of the Affordable Care Act was that some people were going to buy health care on the marketplace; in some cases, we were going to allow states to expand their coverage through individualized programs in their states. I think because of politics, not all states have taken advantage of the options that are out there. Our hope is, is that more of them do.
We still have to sign a bunch of people up. We’ve covered now about a third of the people who weren’t covered before this law passed, but that means there’s still two-thirds out there who still need some help and they’re still going to the emergency room at the last minute when something goes wrong.
And so we want to educate people. We want to listen to folks. We want to hear good ideas from all sources. We want to think about this in a practical, American way instead of a partisan, political way. And if we do that, then I think there’s still great strides to be made.
So I want to thank all of you for being here. And with that, I’m just going to open it up for a bunch of questions. And you can ask me about anything, but probably you should ask me a couple of questions about health care. (Laughter.) I’m also willing to talk about the women’s soccer team and how we’re going to beat whoever it is we’re playing up in Canada. (Applause.) I can talk about the NBA free agency. (Laughter.) I can talk about the Predators and hockey. (Applause.) And I can talk about other things other than sports. (Laughter.)
But the way we’re going to do this is we’re just going to — this is very casual. I’m just going to call on folks. The only rules I’m going to lay down are when you raise your hand, if you can wait — are there microphones in the audience? So wait for a microphone so we can all hear you. And I’d like you to introduce yourself. And I’m going to try to make sure that we go boy, girl, boy, girl, so that it’s even. (Laughter.) Okay? All right.
We’re going to start with this young lady right here in front. You’ve got a microphone right here. So remember to introduce yourself. Go ahead and hand her the mic. Sometimes we tell our folks to hang onto the mic because people keep it for too long. (Laughter.) But this looks like a pretty well-behaved group, so go ahead and hand them the mic.
Q I am a Tennessee volunteer enrolling people in the Affordable Care Act.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q Thank you. (Applause.) We live in a city with a lot of health care companies and a lot of great medical facilities who can take advantage of some of the things you mentioned. What do you think ordinary people — people who are volunteers, or ordinary citizens can do to help make our health care system and our health insurance system better?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I want to thank you for volunteering, because so much of our challenge these first couple of years as we’ve gotten this started was just getting people information, because there was so much misinformation out there.
So, for example, a lot of people don’t know that through the exchange, through the Affordable Care Act exchange plan, there is enormous choice of plans. And Tennessee actually has benefitted from some of the widest range of choices of just about any state. I think there are 70 options to choose from for people throughout the state. And about 80 percent of people who are purchasing health insurance through these exchanges because they’re getting federal subsidies, they’re spending less than 100 bucks a month for good, quality care. And that’s true nationwide.
So part of our goal here is just to give people good information. And in fairness to folks, look, before I started tackling this whole health care thing, when I got a job I didn’t really pay attention to health care benefits. You go to the job, and somebody from HR hands you a form and says, here, fill this out, and they tell you, well, you need to choose from two or three plans, and you kind of ask them, all right, well, what do you think? (Laughter.) They tell you, well, that one is pretty good, and you sign up for it. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about health insurance until we get sick, unfortunately.
So getting people information, I think that’s something that is really helpful when it comes from neighbors, friends, coworkers, your church — because you have more trust. Sometimes people don’t always trust what they see on television, especially on something that became sort of a political football.
I think the other thing is for citizens to share their stories of how it’s helped them not only with their friends, neighbors, coworkers, but also with their state legislators and with their governor, and writing letters and letting them know that this is helping people, it makes a difference — so that they then recognize that this is an important need and it’s worthy of support.
And then you’ve also got to take care of yourself. But you look really good, so you’re obviously — (laughter) — getting exercise and eating right, and getting regular checkups and all that good stuff. Because that’s helpful, as well. That’s part of how we keep costs down, is making sure people are well-informed about what it takes to live a healthy life.
Great question, though.
All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. This guy right down here. You’ve got a good-looking beard. All right, hold on a second. Let’s get the mic — like I said, you can just pass it down to him.
Q It is an honor and a privilege to be here, Mr. President. I live in Pikeville, Tennessee. It’s about 50 miles north of Chattanooga. And I’m here representing the 280,000 people that is uninsurable in the state of Tennessee with the Insure Tennessee Act. And what we need is — we got no insurance. We can’t get no insurance. We don’t make enough to pay for insurance, but still yet we make too much to get a subsidy insurance. And I would like to know if you are aware of this, or is there anything that — movements or acts that you can make on the part of our problem here?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I appreciate your comments. There is something that can be done, but it’s going to be at the state level. And I think that it’s important for state legislators to get together and find a uniquely Tennessee solution to the problem.
But understand, the way the law was set up was that states would have the option of expanding existing programs like Medicaid, and then you’d also have people who were buying health insurance on the marketplace and getting subsidies. And the point you’re making is that if the state hasn’t taken action on one part of the program, then even with the good work that’s being done for people who are getting subsidies and purchasing insurance, you’re still leaving a bunch of folks out. And here in Tennessee, that’s probably a couple hundred thousand people who could benefit if we really focused on how to fix it.
Now, as I said before, Tennessee has a history of bipartisan, smart, state-specific efforts to expand health insurance. And I don’t expect that what’s good for Tennessee is automatically going to be the same as what’s good for California or what’s good for my home state of Illinois. But given the strong history of innovation in health care in Tennessee and given the high quality of doctors and hospitals and nurses and networks that are here, you all should be able to find a solution. And the federal government is there to help and to work with those states that are ready to get going.
I will tell you the states that have taken full advantage of all the federal options available, they have an even lower uninsured rate, and a healthier population, and more people signing up for the options that are available than those states that have not taken full advantage of those options. And that’s just a fact. And it is unfortunate that getting this done got so political. Washington is kind of a crazy place. But that doesn’t mean every place has got to be crazy. (Laughter and applause.) So I’d like to see some good sense spring forth from the great state of Tennessee, see if we can get this thing done. (Applause.)
All right. Yes, right there. Go ahead.
Q Thank you so much for being here today and sharing with us. I’m from St. Thomas Health and one of the administrators. So the work that’s already been done, the exchange, we know we have work to do with expansion. What would you envision are the next steps that we need to take in health care in general for our country?
THE PRESIDENT: The areas where I think we can still make the biggest difference, in addition to making sure everybody is signed up for the options that they have, is to really think more about the delivery system of health care. And this can get real complicated because we got a complicated health care system. But I can boil it down maybe into layman’s terms.
Right now we spend too much money on the wrong things and not enough money on the right things. So health care generally is very expensive in this country. But if you look at how that money is spent, we don’t give enough incentives to health care providers to really focus just on the patient and the quality of care. First of all, there’s way too much bureaucracy. There’s way too much paperwork. That wears out the patient. It wears out the doctor. It wears out the nurses. They don’t like it.
The second problem is that because of the way that we’ve designed the payment system in health care, historically what happened was that, let’s say, a hospital or a doctor had a patient come in, says, I’ve got diabetes or I have I think maybe diabetes. The hospital or the doctor would get paid to amputate the leg of a patient, but they wouldn’t get reimbursed if they just hired somebody to monitor whether that individual was taking their medicines on a regular basis and monitoring their eating habits, right? So what ends up happening is, is that you don’t end up helping the patient who might have kept their leg if they were keeping up a regular regiment of looking after themselves.
The doctors don’t feel good about that. The nurses don’t feel good about it. But they just don’t have time because of the economics of the health care system. So one of the things that we’re trying to do across the board — and Tennessee is actually doing some good innovation on this — is let’s reimburse people for the outcomes and the quality of care that people are getting.
So instead of — when that patient comes in, instead of worrying about just, okay, I’m going to bill for this test and I’m going to bill for this surgery, let’s tell them, if that person ends up having a good outcome, then you’re going to get reimbursed. And the better the outcome, maybe the bigger the reimbursement.
And now it may turn out that it’s a good deal for the doctor to spend an extra half an hour with the patient very carefully going over the medicine they should be getting. Or the hospital may say, you know what, we’re going to sign you up for a health club and make sure that you’re getting some regular exercise, or we’re going to reimburse you for a smoking-cessation program — and suddenly all that produces a better result.
But we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got a payment system that follows that logic of patient-centered care. And as I said before, we’re already seeing that happening. Part of the reason that we’ve actually seen health care costs slow — the inflation of health care slow is because folks are starting to get reimbursed in different ways, and health care groups are starting to organize themselves to focus on the quality of care as opposed to the amount of care.
If we can do that, see, what that does is it — first of all, it frees up resources. It’s not good for anybody when health care costs go up because not only does the federal government have to pay more, the state of Tennessee has to pay more. That means there’s less money left over for doctors, nurses, for health education. It means higher premiums for the patients. But it also means that if we’re saying — if we just cut 2 percent or 3 percent on the cost of health care, that’s hundreds of billions of dollars that we can now spend on something else. We can spend that on education. We can spend that on job training programs. We can spend that on fixing some potholes. And it can improve everybody’s quality of life.
So that I think is the area that we’re going to be spending a lot of focus and a lot time, in addition to making sure that people are able to sign up for the care that they need. Because I want to emphasize, there are still too many people out there who haven’t signed up or can’t sign up for the health care that’s available to them. And if we can clear away some of the politics, that will help, as well.
Good. Gentleman, right here.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Eric Brown from Nashville, Tennessee. I work for the Children’s Defense Fund and a small, local congregation here. My question is more for veterans when it comes to health care. I have a family member who’s a veteran. She would like to have a female doctor. She’s been rejected about two or three times. So I just wanted to hear more of your thoughts on that — how to help her to get the health care that she needs, but also have the safety that she needs for it as well.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, as most of you know, the VA system is an entirely separate health care system from the private sector health care systems that most of us use.
Here’s the basic principle: If somebody is wearing our — the uniform of the armed services of this country and sacrificing and putting themselves in harm’s way to protect us, we’ve got to give them good health care when they come home. (Applause.) We’ve got to make sure that they get the very best.
Now, the good news is that the overwhelming majority of veterans are very satisfied with the health care they receive once they get into the system. The bad news is that because a lot of the processing and systems in the VA system are outdated, sometimes it’s taking a long time for folks to get into the system, to get an appointment, to make sure that they’ve got a doctor that they’re comfortable with. There are areas where there are still shortages — for example, in mental health, with a lot of folks coming back with PTSD — there haven’t been, historically, enough mental health services provided for our veterans.
So my Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, who is a former — who’s a veteran himself, but also a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, so knows about big companies and big operations — he’s really been doing a good job in revamping how the VA system is organized generally. It’s going to take some time. It’s still not where it needs to be.
With respect to your — was it your sister, in particular?
THE PRESIDENT: Your mother-in-law, in particular — we’ll get your name and your mother-in-law’s name, and we’ll find out what exactly the issue is. But generally speaking, we’ve actually made an investment in women’s health care in the VA system, reflecting the fact that we now have extraordinary women who are serving in the armed services, and the health care needs of women are not always going to be the same as the health care needs of men. And so we’ve actually been trying to boost the kinds of specialties and training that are needed to provide health care to women — our women veterans, and we’ve been expanding that.
And that’s something I’m very proud of. We’ve made a significant inroad in that area. Tell her thanks for her service.
All right, it’s a young lady’s turn. Go ahead. I’ll go here, and — don’t worry, I think I’ll be able to catch everybody. Go ahead. But she does have an Obama pin on, so I thought I’d — (laughter) — I figured I had to give her a little props for that.
Q Thank you. And thank you, Mr. President, for coming to Tennessee. And my name is Brenda Gilmore. I’m a member of the Tennessee General Assembly in the House. And there are a number of members that are here, so I just wanted you to know that we support you. We believe that health care is the right thing for everybody, and especially for Tennesseans.
And I wanted to ask you, with your background also being a state senator —
THE PRESIDENT: State legislator.
Q — do you have some strategies that you could share with us — (laughter) — that we could encourage our Governor to stay on the journey and to continue to find solutions to present Insure Tennessee, and to bring some of our colleagues over on the other side so that we can take the politics out of it and help them to understand how important this is to the quality of life for Tennesseans? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t presume to know as much as you do about Tennessee politics, so I will leave the expert advice to folks like Jim Cooper maybe.
But here’s the one thing I do know, is that elected officials respond to public opinion. I think one of the challenges that we’ve had throughout this fight has been that there’s been a lot of misinformation out there. And so if you stopped the average Tennessean on the street and you asked them, do you support making sure that insurance companies can’t bar you from getting health insurance because of a preexisting condition, eight out of 10 of them would say, absolutely, I support that. Overwhelming majority of Republicans would support it just as much as Democrats did.
Now, if you asked them, did you know the Affordable Care Act is what is guaranteeing you don’t get blocked from getting health insurance with a preexisting condition, you’d get an argument with at least half those folks — “no, that’s not what it’s doing.” So part of it is just providing people good information. That’s really important. And if ordinary folks feel it’s important, then usually elected officials start responding.
I think the other thing to emphasize, which I know you’re already doing, is recognizing that not every state is the same, and that the truth is, is that there are a lot of different ways that states are approaching this problem. And if everybody will just acknowledge that people should get health insurance, that they should be able to get affordable care when they need it — if that much is acknowledged, that base principle, then you can say to them, okay, here’s our ideas for how to do it, what are your ideas? And people can come up with good ideas of their own.
I will say this. People tend to forget that the Affordable Care Act model, with health care exchanges and buying on the — in the marketplace, and getting subsidies from the federal government — that was originally a model that was embraced by Republicans before I embraced it. It’s the model that Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It’s the model that conservative organizations like Heritage Foundation thought were a good idea.
So my hope is that maybe now we can return to a constructive conversation about — if folks have better ideas, you should accept them. My general rule is I have no pride of authorship here. I just want to make sure Kelly has got health insurance and I want to make sure that Thelma has got health insurance, and I want to make sure this gentleman gets health insurance. And if there’s a better way of doing it, let me know.
But it turns out that it’s hard. (Laughter.) So it’s got to be an idea that actually works. It can’t be an idea that sounds good, but then doesn’t work. That’s the only danger. So if somebody tells you that, well, we’re going to prohibit insurance companies from barring you from getting health insurance if you’ve got a preexisting condition — which is popular — but we’re going to allow people not to get health insurance if they don’t feel like it, then the truth is that doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is, if you think about it, if you knew that the insurance company couldn’t prevent you from getting health insurance once you were sick, you wouldn’t pay all those premiums until you got sick. And then you’d go to your health insurance company and say, there’s a law you got to sell me health insurance — and you’d save a whole lot of money, but, of course, the whole insurance system would collapse. It wouldn’t work.
So there are just some basic things that — basic realities about the health care system that have to be taken into account. But I think you should be open to other ideas. Like I said, look, I didn’t mind stealing ideas from Mitt Romney. (Laughter.) But the bottom line is: What works? What works? And if Republican legislators have better ideas, they should present them. But they have to be realistic. They have to be meaningful. (Applause.)
Okay. The gentleman right here in the glasses. Right here. Yes.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I work with Family and Children Service. I am versed in the health care system and I help people enroll in the marketplace. And I want to thank you so much on behalf of the many people I’ve been helping, especially the most vulnerable immigrant people, to get affordable health insurance. We really thank you very much.
Also, I just want to ask you if you have any plans to expand the Affordable Care Act for sick migrant people, especially the people who don’t have enough documents in this country but they still live and work here for a long time. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we were very clear that the Affordable Care Act did not apply to people who are not here legally. And that’s the law. So that’s another example of — there’s a lot of misinformation about this. The law says that if you are undocumented, if you’re not here legally, you can’t benefit from subsidies and the program that we’ve set up.
The real answer to your question is why don’t we have immigration reform so that people who’ve been here a long time who are otherwise law-abiding citizens, who oftentimes have children who are U.S. citizens, who are contributing to the society and are willing to pay their dues, pay taxes, get a background check — why don’t we give them a pathway so they can be legal. (Applause.) If we do that — if we reform the immigration system, which is all broken, then this problem that you just mentioned takes care of itself.
I mean, look, we should not be encouraging illegal immigration. What we should be doing is setting up a smart, legal immigration system that doesn’t separate families, but does focus on making sure that people who are dangerous, people who are gang-bangers or criminals — that we’re deporting them as quickly as possible, that we’re focusing our resources there; that we’re focusing on a strong border. We’ve made improvements on all those fronts, but we could be doing even more if we had immigration reform.
And we almost got that done. We had a bipartisan bill come through the Senate that was very smart and was well-crafted. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was a good compromise among a lot of different ideas. The House of Representatives declined to call it to a vote, even though I think we had a majority of members of the House of Representatives who would be willing to vote for it.
I’ve taken some administrative actions to try to improve the system. For example, us not deporting some young person who grew up here and been here since they were three or four or five years old, brought here by their parents, hasn’t done anything wrong, are going to school with our kids, or friends with our kids, and suddenly — in some cases, they didn’t even know that they weren’t citizens — and then they’re 18 years old and suddenly they can’t get a college scholarship because it turns out they don’t have the legal documents.
And I said, administratively, that’s not who we are to just send those kids back. In some cases, they’ve never been to the country that their parents are from, don’t speak the language. What do you mean we’re going to send them back? Some of them serving in our military.
So we’ve done a lot administratively. Ultimately, though, to really find a full solution to the problem we’re going to have to get congressional action. And I suspect this will be a topic of conversation during the upcoming presidential campaign.
I should note by the way that Michelle is very happy that I cannot run. (Laughter.) That is good for the health care of our family. (Laughter.)
Yes, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Marian Hurst from Mount Juliet, Tennessee. And thanks to the ACA, I was able to retire and still get health insurance. My question is, what are your thoughts on how to now manage the premiums? I don’t know if you’re aware that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has announced a significant increase after the one that they gave from 2014 to 2015.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind that the Affordable Care Act was designed so that there’s competition. And folks in Tennessee benefitted over these last two years not only of a lot of healthy competition — more insurers came in offering plans than just about any other place — it was really impressive — but Tennessee’s premiums were also substantially lower than a lot of other states, and have been over the last couple of years. The insurance companies now have come in requesting higher premiums.
The good news for people of Tennessee is this has to be reviewed and approved by the insurance commission. And if — last year is a good example. Last year there were a number of states where the insurance companies came in requesting significant spikes in premiums. And there were a lot stories in the newspaper, just like there are this year, about, oh, premiums are skyrocketing and this is going to be terrible and all that. When all the dust settled and the commissioners who were empowered to review these rates forced insurance companies to justify what they were seeking, what you discovered was, is that the rates actually didn’t go up as much as people thought.
So I think the key for Tennessee is just making sure that the insurance commissioner does their job in not just passively reviewing the rates, but really asking, okay, what is it that you are looking for here? Why would you need very high premiums? And my expectation is, is that they’ll come in significantly lower than what’s being requested.
But I think that this emphasizes the need for us to not let our foot off the gas when it comes to the delivery system reforms that I talked about earlier. Because part of what’s happening in terms of health care costs is that as technology changes, and there are more cures for more diseases, people utilize them more. And if we aren’t smart about how we spend our health care dollars, if we want everything right away even if it’s not shown to be particularly effective, then that shoots up health care costs and ultimately premiums are going to keep on going up.
So we’ve got to think more carefully about this. The best example of this, by the way, is prescription drugs. The biggest spike in health care costs is around prescription drugs. Now, some of this is just because drugs have gotten better and people are able to now deal with cholesterol or deal with other chronic problems through a drug regimen. And that’s a good thing. We should be happy about that. But when you’ve got a situation where the brand-name drug costs 100 bucks a pill and the generic drug costs 10 bucks a pill, and the generic has been shown to be just as effective as the brand name, it’s good for all of us as consumers to make sure that we’re generally using the generic drug when we can.
And a lot of times — sometimes we’re very insistent because we’ve seen some fancy ad on TV — people are running around looking happy. (Laughter.) Until they read that thing about: “This may cause serious side effects.” (Laughter.) Diarrhea, migraines. (Laughter.) I always laugh at those ads. (Laughter.)
But a lot of times, because of the advertising, you’ll have somebody come into their doctor and say, well, I want X because I saw a TV ad, and if the doctor says, well, actually Y works just as well and is a lot cheaper — a lot of times, people’s attitude is no, no, no, I want X. And if the system is set up where you’re getting X, then that means your premiums are going to go up. If you want your premiums to stay low, then you have got to base your decisions on your doctor — you want your doctors and your nurses basing decisions on science and what’s proven as opposed to what’s being advertised.
And that’s just one example of how we’ve got to make sure that we continue to save money in the system. Because if costs keep on going up and everybody wants everything and is not smart about how we’re spending out health care dollars, then, yes, premiums are going to end up going up too high. But stay on your insurance commissioner, pay attention to what they’re doing.
Okay. I got time for one more — but I’m going to take two. (Laughter.) Yes, sir, this gentlemen right here.
Q I’m Walter Davis, and I’m a director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, which does both enrollment and advocating for Governor Haslam’s Insure Tennessee. It’s wonderful to hear the success stories here. But here in the South, we need help from the government and from supportive institutions to talk about the people being left behind. And I want to make sure you meet Davy Crockett before you leave today.
THE PRESIDENT: Is this Davy right here?
Q Right there.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
Q Over there with the Tennessee Justice Center. There are important stories about the people who are left out because of decisions by legislators. And we love the legislators that are with us, both parties, but the other legislators need to meet people in the gap.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, you know what, I think this is like a handoff to Davy here. (Laughter.) So we’ll get you the mic here, Davy. Hold on one second. Is your name really Davy Crockett?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a cool name. (Laughter.) But you don’t have that beaver cap. (Laughter.)
Q I’ve got one at the house.
THE PRESIDENT: You do? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. All right.
Q My name is James Davy Crockett. And I live in Bulls Gap, Tennessee. And I want to know — I’ve been turned down four times for Social Security. Is there anything that you can do to maybe push it through or something? (Laughter.) I mean, I have been turned down and I’d like to be able to get some help.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Well, here, I’ll tell you what. Here’s the thing, Davy, I don’t run the Social Security Administration. It’s the law. But here’s one thing that does happen. If I ask a question, I tend to get an answer pretty quick. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to get your information, Davy, and I’ll make sure the Social Security Administrator takes a look at it and expedites it. All right? (Applause.)
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, thank you.
Davy Crockett! (Applause.) You all remember that TV show? Actually, a lot of people are too young here. (Starts to sing) Davy, Davy Crockett. (Laughter.) I loved that.
Right here. This young lady is going to get the last question, because she wrote me a letter, and when people tell their stories that reminds me of why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Q Thank you Mr. President. My name is Margaret Mackatee (ph) and I’m a retired teacher and school administrator for 38 years in the great state of Ohio. And I moved to Tennessee to be with my son and my grandchildren. And my grandson, Patrick, said to say hi to you.
THE PRESIDENT: Tell Patrick I said hey. (Laughter.)
Q Yes, sir. The letter I wrote was after watching you make a speech to college students. And at the time, it was after the fact of the death of my son. And being off of health care immediately after he graduated from Wright State University, and through the process of his illness and his death, how it affected me economically, and paying COBRA and shots.
And in the context of being a school administrator, as hard as that might have been to me, it was worse for my kids at school, going through much the same thing or worse, with no support system like I had, especially as we went through the economic downturn in the country. And being a high school principal and watching my kids be homeless and transient and mobile, and much harder to grab ahold of. And they would be into crime or stealing or whatever for survival on the streets. And they would show up at school, or they’d get off the bus and come down and say, “Doctor Mackatee (ph), I need to go to the clinic because I’m sick.”
And so our little school clinics became their health care. And sometimes even their parents would come and say, hey, can your nurse check us out. And at one time, we had one nurse for seven schools.
And so, in terms of people that are lost in the shuffle — especially at the secondary level — transient, homeless children — we had a huge population of homeless children and they kept my head on straight through the grief I felt in our family because they’re so compelling. They don’t let — teenagers don’t let you sit around and whine. They pull you forward into life.
And my concern for the school systems in this country is for the massive health care issues that walk in the doors of school systems who don’t have nursing care, who don’t have clinics that are staffed, who don’t have the resources. And many of the teachers in America take care of the kids out of their pocket. School cooks feed children — slip them a little bit. I know for a fact that many of my kids only ate with confidence at school. That’s one of the reasons I love Mrs. Obama and her notion of — (applause) — of decent school lunch.
I can remember walking into a school system and the lunch they served was a little piece of cheese, a little short pasty breadstick and a tiny little tomato sauce cup. And that was lunch until Mrs. Obama brought focus to what was being served to our children.
So the kids in the country who are homeless and deprived and transient — as soon as a kid gets 15 or 16, it’s hard to — they come and they show up once in a while, or they go off and they bounce from home to home, or buddy to buddy, or situation to situation. They’re the ones that I’m worried about falling through the cracks.
And I’m worried about our school system and the focus that we spend more time and effort trying to get what we used to call in Ohio “butts in seats to take tests,” instead of seeing to their health care needs and their mental health care needs and support needs, so that we can wholly educate a child in the United States of America. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great comment. Well, first of all, Margaret, we’re so grateful for you sharing your personal story, because it reminds us of the goodness and generosity of the American people, when somebody like Margaret is going through her own pain but she’s thinking about people other than herself and her family. That kind of spirit is to be found all across the country. It’s not unique to one party. It’s not unique to one region. There are good people like Margaret everywhere.
A couple of points I’d just pick up on that you’ve mentioned. Number one — when we talk about the health care system, we have to just remind ourselves of the economic impact of the health care system on families. It’s not just feeling bad. Obviously, when you’re sick, your most important concern is getting well. But what is also true is, is that when you get sick and you don’t have health insurance, then that is draining your resources for other things.
Bankruptcy because of medical expenses is a huge portion of the bankruptcies in America. When families lose their house, or a parent has to stop working because of an untreated illness, or they miss too many days at work because they can never go to a doctor and then lose their job or lose incomes from those days they don’t work — that can send a household into a spiral. And then, once a household starts breaking down because they lose a home, or they lose a car, or they lose a job, now, suddenly, you start having people in shelters, and people on the streets. And that then affects kids and then their capacity to learn. And you then create cycles of problems that are much harder for people to pull out of.
So part of the reason that it’s important for us to get this health care issue right is so that people have at least a stable base from which to then focus on all the other issues that they’ve got to focus on in their lives. And if we can, as I said before, continue to do a better job of providing high-quality care to everybody, but in a more efficient way, then that will free up resources so that, for example, we can address the underfunding of schools, and we can make sure that we are having additional resources inside the schools for things like mental health.
The number of under-diagnosed young people who end up getting in trouble or dropping out of school just because they didn’t get the same health care services that better-off families get, it’s substantial. And once they’ve dropped out, you lose them. And then they end up in the criminal justice system. And we then end up paying for their incarceration instead of them paying taxes because they’re able to get a good job and support a family. And those cycles can build.
One of the most challenging things as President for me is to try to get folks to recognize that investments in people oftentimes save us money over the long term, even if it looks like it costs money in the short term. And we make this mistake over and over again.
You mentioned school lunches, for example. We know that children’s grades and test scores tend to go down at the end of the month, on average, in low-income communities. All right, well, why is that? It’s because food stamps start running out at the end of the month and kids are hungry and they’re not focused.
Now, it may look smart for us to restrict those benefits, except if even half of those kids end up doing better in school, and didn’t drop out, and were able to get a job, the society would be much wealthier. If we are focused on mental health services, then we could cut down on the crime rate. If we invest in early childhood education, we know there are improved outcomes that save the society money as a whole.
And let’s face it, part of what prevents us from making those investments in the short term is, is that we’ve gone through some tough times. The middle class feels strapped. People’s incomes and wages haven’t gone up — even after the recovery where we dug ourselves out of the crisis. We still have growing inequality where a huge amount of the increase in income is still going to folks at the very top. And so if you’re a middle-class person, and you’re already struggling and things are tight, then sometimes you feel like, well, why am I going to pay more taxes to help folks at the bottom? Right? That’s, I think, the mentality that a lot of folks have. And it’s understandable.
But part of what I’ve been trying to argue — and I know Jim tries to do it, as well — is to recognize that we don’t have to choose between middle-class families working hard and trying to get ahead and low-income families who are working hard and trying to get ahead — if those of us who’ve been extremely blessed are just a little more open-hearted about how we can help everybody. (Applause.)
And I would like us to just reflect the generosity of spirit that Margaret expresses, because if we all had that generosity of spirit, if we all look at every child as a member of our family, if we think of everybody as part of a single community, then we can solve a lot of these problems. And it won’t end up costing us more money, we won’t necessarily have to pay more taxes, we’ll just be spending it in different ways.
In some ways, health care is a good metaphor for a lot of the problems we have. We spend things on stuff we don’t need and we neglect the things we do, and we don’t end up healthier as a result.
Well, that’s not just true for the health care system; that’s true for our economy. We waste a lot of money on stuff we don’t need. And we under-invest in those things that will make sure that we have a healthy society. And politics oftentimes gets in the way. And part of what I’ve tried to encourage my own Democratic Party to do is to recognize that not all the money that we spend at the federal level is smart, and some of it — some programs don’t work and we should end those when they don’t work, and be honest about what’s working and what’s not.
But part of what I’ve also tried to do is to say to the Republican Party: Open your hearts and think about the people here in Tennessee who are working hard, are struggling, and just need a little bit of help. And if we give them that help, it’s going to pay off over the long term. This will be a stronger state. Employment will be higher. Folks will be paying taxes. Everybody is going to prosper.
We’re all in this together. That’s what I believe. When America is together and we have a certain generosity of spirit, even if we’re hard-headed about making sure stuff works right and we’re not wasting money, but we’re doing what is needed to give everybody a shot in life, that’s when America grows. That’s when we prosper.
I know that’s what you believe, too, Margaret. You showed it in your own life. We appreciate you very much.
Thank you. God bless you. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
2:44 P.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2015
Source: WH, 7-1-15
11:08 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat.
More than 54 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the United States closed its embassy in Havana. Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and re-open embassies in our respective countries. This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.
When the United States shuttered our embassy in 1961, I don’t think anyone expected that it would be more than half a century before it re-opened. After all, our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people. But there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things.
For the United States, that meant clinging to a policy that was not working. Instead of supporting democracy and opportunity for the Cuban people, our efforts to isolate Cuba despite good intentions increasingly had the opposite effect -– cementing the status quo and isolating the United States from our neighbors in this hemisphere. The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn’t working, we can -– and will –- change.
Last December, I announced that the United States and Cuba had decided to take steps to normalize our relationship. As part of that effort, President Raul Castro and I directed our teams to negotiate the re-establishment of embassies. Since then, our State Department has worked hard with their Cuban counterparts to achieve that goal. And later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana formally to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.
This is not merely symbolic. With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people. We’ll have more personnel at our embassy. And our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island. That will include the Cuban government, civil society, and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life.
On issues of common interest –- like counterterrorism, disaster response, and development -– we will find new ways to cooperate with Cuba. And I’ve been clear that we will also continue to have some very serious differences. That will include America’s enduring support for universal values, like freedom of speech and assembly, and the ability to access information. And we will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values.
However, I strongly believe that the best way for America to support our values is through engagement. That’s why we’ve already taken steps to allow for greater travel, people-to-people and commercial ties between the United States and Cuba. And we will continue to do so going forward.
Since December, we’ve already seen enormous enthusiasm for this new approach. Leaders across the Americas have expressed support for our change in policy; you heard that expressed by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil yesterday. Public opinion surveys in both our countries show broad support for this engagement. One Cuban said, “I have prepared for this all my life.” Another said that that, “this is like a shot of oxygen.” One Cuban teacher put it simply: “We are neighbors. Now we can be friends.”
Here in the United States, we’ve seen that same enthusiasm. There are Americans who want to travel to Cuba and American businesses who want to invest in Cuba. American colleges and universities that want to partner with Cuba. Above all, Americans who want to get to know their neighbors to the south. And through that engagement, we can also help the Cuban people improve their own lives. One Cuban American looked forward to “reuniting families and opening lines of communications.” Another put it bluntly: “You can’t hold the future of Cuba hostage to what happened in the past.”
And that’s what this is about: a choice between the future and the past.
Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward. I believe it’s time for Congress to do the same. I’ve called on Congress to take steps to lift the embargo that prevents Americans from travelling or doing business in Cuba. We’ve already seen members from both parties begin that work. After all, why should Washington stand in the way of our own people?
Yes, there are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation. But it’s long past time for us to realize that this approach doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked for 50 years. It shuts America out of Cuba’s future, and it only makes life worse for the Cuban people.
So I’d ask Congress to listen to the Cuban people. Listen to the American people. Listen to the words of a proud Cuban American, Carlos Gutierrez, who recently came out against the policy of the past, saying, “I wonder if the Cubans who have to stand in line for the most basic necessities for hours in the hot Havana sun feel that this approach is helpful to them.”
Of course, nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight. But I believe that American engagement — through our embassy, our businesses, and most of all, through our people — is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights. Time and again, America has demonstrated that part of our leadership in the world is our capacity to change. It’s what inspires the world to reach for something better.
A year ago, it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana. This is what change looks like.
In January of 1961, the year I was born, when President Eisenhower announced the termination of our relations with Cuba, he said: It is my hope and my conviction that it is “in the not-too-distant future it will be possible for the historic friendship between us once again to find its reflection in normal relations of every sort.” Well, it took a while, but I believe that time has come. And a better future lies ahead.
Thank you very much. And I want to thank some of my team who worked diligently to make this happen. They’re here. They don’t always get acknowledged. We’re really proud of them. Good work.
11:15 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2015
Girl Scouts join hands and sing “Taps” at the White House Campout, as part of the “Let’s Move! Outside” initiative, on the South Lawn of the White House, June 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Source: WH, 6-30-15
4:36 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Great job, Aniyah! (Applause.) Hey, guys. You ready for this?
MRS. OBAMA: We are so excited to have you here. I’m not going to talk long because I really just wanted to formally welcome you to the White House. There it is. It’s right there. It is right there. And you’re going to be sleeping out here. Can you imagine that? This is the first time we’ve ever done a campout on the South Lawn of the White House. You are making history. This is something you can tell your kids and your grandkids. Do you understand the impact — (laughter) — the importance of this moment, today?
It’s exciting. Well, you know who’s more excited than you all? Me. (Laughter.) And everyone here at the White House. I have to tell you, to make this happen it took a lot of work. We have security. The Secret Service had to be involved. The Social Office, the Department of the Interior. We couldn’t do this without them. We’re so excited and so proud of Secretary Jewell, who couldn’t be here because she’s doing stuff for the President. But she wanted to say hi. And she put a lot of energy into making this day and night happen for you guys.
So I want to make sure you thank all the people around you while you’re here, all the staff people. Because people are going to be sleeping out here with you, making sure that you’re safe and that everything goes well. Okay? So make sure you thank folks. But everybody is excited to have you here.
We’re doing this because I am the honorary [National President] of the Girl Scouts. I’m very proud to be the honorary co-chair. And I am also very — a big proponent of getting outside and staying active. You guys have heard of Let’s Move. That’s my program about keeping kids active and healthy. And one of the components of the program is something called Let’s Move Outside. And this is something that we’re doing to encourage kids to get outside and get moving in their National Parks, because this is the 100th anniversary of our National Parks. And we have so many beautiful parks all over this country that are free to families and kids, and they can hike and they can camp and they can discover the great outdoors. We want people to find their parks all around.
And one of the reasons why we wanted you all here — did you know that the White House is a National Park? You knew that? You did your research? Well, what better way to highlight Let’s Move Outside than to have the Girl Scouts camping out right here in a National Park at the White House. Good idea, huh?
Well, I’m very proud of you all because you all get outside a lot. You’re good campers. And I’m happy that Kathy and the Girl Scouts — you’ve developed these new outdoor badges that you can earn, I understand. All these things — hiking, and all these exciting outdoor things. So you guys are going to teach me how to do some of these things, will you please? I don’t know if I can officially earn a badge, but I want to try. All right?
So I want to get going. But you guys have got to be helpful. I don’t know anything. I don’t know how to tie a knot. I don’t know how to pitch a tent. I can sing a little bit. I’m definitely not climbing that wall. (Laughter.) That’s up to you all, okay?
So will you help me get moving and learn how to do some new stuff? All right, let’s get going! (Applause.)
4:40 P.M. EDT
Source: WH, 6-30-15
8:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Why are you guys still up here? (Laughter.) How’s it going? So what’s been going on? What have you guys been up to?
THE PRESIDENT: You’re singing camp songs?
MRS. OBAMA: Is that all you’ve been doing is singing — and why are you all dusty? (Laughter.) What game were you all playing? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: So you’ve been singing. What were you doing before you were singing? You guys had dinner.
THE PRESIDENT: You did some rock climbing?
THE PRESIDENT: Where did you go rock climbing? (Laughter.) There are no rocks over there. What are you talking about? (Laughter.) So you guys been having fun?
THE PRESIDENT: So most of you guys are going into 5th grade or 6th grade?
THE PRESIDENT: Going into 5th. And so you guys are from a bunch of different troops, or —
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, from all over the country?
THE PRESIDENT: So you guys are making new friends.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s terrific.
MRS. OBAMA: Look at their cool little chairs.
THE PRESIDENT: They’re very nice chairs.
GIRL: They roll back. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Can I just say back when I went camping my tents weren’t as nice. (Laughter.) And I didn’t have cool chairs like this. (Laughter.)
GIRL: Where did they come from?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know. They just showed up. (Laughter.) I don’t know what you guys are doing here. (Laughter.)
GIRL: Camping on your lawn. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You’re camping on my lawn. I don’t know how that happened.
MRS. OBAMA: They’re making history.
THE PRESIDENT: I think the reason you guys are here is because we’re celebrating the Great Outdoors and the National Park Service is trying to make sure that young people get outside — so you guys aren’t watching TV all the time, or playing video games all the time, but you’re getting outside, getting some fresh air and spending time with your friends and having adventures. And there are national parks all across the country, and it turns out that the White House is a national park. (Applause.) I didn’t know that.
MRS. OBAMA: They knew.
THE PRESIDENT: You guys knew. Okay. So you guys are helping to celebrate and kick off this whole Great Outdoors adventure that everybody is going to be having this summer, right?
THE PRESIDENT: All right. So I don’t really know any campfire songs. Are you guys going to teach me one?
(The President and the First Lady sing along to campfire songs.)
THE PRESIDENT: Did you see the First Lady rocking out a little bit? (Laughter.) She had the moves.
All right, well, you know what, you guys are having so much fun. Unfortunately, I’ve got to go to work.
GIRLS: Noooo —
THE PRESIDENT: I am not allowed to have fun. (Laughter.)
GIRL: Can we have a hug?
THE PRESIDENT: We can have a group hug. (All the girls at once come running up for a group hug.) Those are some good hugs! I didn’t know that Girl Scouts gave such good hugs. (Laughter.) Who are those Girl Scouts over there? (pointing to the troop leaders.) They look at least like they’re juniors. (Laughter.)
I’m so glad you guys are having fun. But I want to make sure — you guys better clean up this mess. (Laughter.) When I wake up in the morning — I’m teasing. You guys aren’t going to be making a racket, are you?
THE PRESIDENT: All right. It was good to see you guys. All right, have fun.
8:47 P.M. RDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 30, 2015
Source: WH, 6-30-15
“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages…We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.”
– President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015
Middle class economics means that a hard day’s work should lead to a fair day’s pay. For much of the past century, a cornerstone of that promise has been the 40-hour workweek. But for decades, industry lobbyists have bottled up efforts to keep these rules up to date, leaving millions of Americans working long hours, and taking them away from their families without the overtime pay that they have earned. Business owners who treat their employees fairly are being undercut by competitors who don’t.
Today, President Obama announced that the Department of Labor will propose extending overtime pay to nearly 5 million workers. The proposal would guarantee overtime pay to most salaried workers earning less than an estimated $50,440 next year. The number of workers in each state who would be affected by this proposal can be found here.
The salary threshold guarantees overtime for most salaried workers who fall below it, but it is eroded by inflation every year. It has only been updated once since the 1970s, when the Bush Administration published a weak rule with the strong support of industry. Today, the salary threshold remains at $23,660 ($455 per week), which is below the poverty threshold for a family of four, and only 8 percent of full-time salaried workers fall below it.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 30, 2015
Source: WH, 6-26-15
College of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
2:49 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honor to God. (Applause.)
The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.
“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”
We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.
To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.
I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well. But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger. (Laughter.) Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair. (Laughter.) The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor — all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.
Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special. Anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful — a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.
He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.
As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem. (Applause.)
His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.
Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us.”
Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church. (Applause.) As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.” (Applause.)
He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long — (applause) — that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.
What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man. (Applause.)
You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.
Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. (Applause.) People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.
To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life — (applause) — a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.
Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — (applause) — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — (applause) — and taught that they matter. (Applause.) That’s what happens in church.
That’s what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — (applause) — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes. (Applause.)
When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church. Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion — (applause) — of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That’s what the church meant. (Applause.)
We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. (Applause.) An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. (Applause.) God has different ideas. (Applause.)
He didn’t know he was being used by God. (Applause.) Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that. (Applause.)
The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley — (applause) — how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond — not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.
Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace. (Applause.)
This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.) The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals — the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. (Applause.) I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)
According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God — (applause) — as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.
As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. (Applause.) He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. (Applause.) We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.
For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. (Applause.) It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — (applause) — as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. (Applause.) For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.
Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — (applause) — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)
But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. (Applause.) For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. (Applause.)
Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. (Applause.) Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system — (applause) — and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. (Applause.)
Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. (Applause.) So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. (Applause.) By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)
For too long —
AUDIENCE: For too long!
THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.
The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)
We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it. (Applause.) But God gives it to us anyway. (Applause.) And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.
None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no shortcut. And we don’t need more talk. (Applause.) None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires — this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.
But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. (Applause.) Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual — that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. (Applause.) To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again.
It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.
Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” (Applause.) What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. (Applause.) That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past — how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind — but, more importantly, an open heart.
That’s what I’ve felt this week — an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think — what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”
That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. (Applause.) If we can tap that grace, everything can change. (Applause.)
Amazing grace. Amazing grace.
(Begins to sing) — Amazing grace — (applause) — how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)
Clementa Pinckney found that grace.
Cynthia Hurd found that grace.
Susie Jackson found that grace.
Ethel Lance found that grace.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.
Tywanza Sanders found that grace.
Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.
Myra Thompson found that grace.
Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America. (Applause.)
3:28 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 26, 2015
Source: WH, 6-26-15
11:14 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American.
Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.
This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.
This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have. It will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether their marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move [to] or even visit another. This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.
In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.
This ruling is a victory for Jim Obergefell and the other plaintiffs in the case. It’s a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have fought so long for their basic civil rights. It’s a victory for their children, whose families will now be recognized as equal to any other. It’s a victory for the allies and friends and supporters who spent years, even decades, working and praying for change to come.
And this ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.
My administration has been guided by that idea. It’s why we stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and why we were pleased when the Court finally struck down a central provision of that discriminatory law. It’s why we ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” From extending full marital benefits to federal employees and their spouses, to expanding hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, we’ve made real progress in advancing equality for LGBT Americans in ways that were unimaginable not too long ago.
I know change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long. But compared to so many other issues, America’s shift has been so quick. I know that Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact; recognize different viewpoints; revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.
But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them. Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone. That’s always been our story.
We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.
We are a people who believe that every single child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
There’s so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American. But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.
That’s the consequence of a decision from the Supreme Court, but, more importantly, it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents — parents who loved their children no matter what. Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts, and stayed strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.
What an extraordinary achievement. What a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. What a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.
Those countless, often anonymous heroes — they deserve our thanks. They should be very proud. America should be very proud.
Thank you. (Applause.)
11:22 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 26, 2015
Source: WH, 6-25-15
Two years ago, President Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative, setting an ambitious goal to provide 99 percent of American students with access to next-generation broadband in their classrooms and libraries by 2018. Since that time, the public and private sectors have committed more than $10 billion of total funding and in-kind commitments as part of this five-year effort to transform American education. To leverage this technology, thousands of school and community leaders have pledged to help realize the President’s vision to move America’s schools into the digital age.
ConnectED is on track to achieve its goal of connecting students to tools they need for 21st century learning — and on its two year anniversary, we are announcing additional progress….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 25, 2015
Source: WH, 6-25-15
11:34 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Have a seat. Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate — we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all.
Over those five years, as we’ve worked to implement the Affordable Care Act, there have been successes and setbacks. The setbacks I remember clearly. (Laughter.) But as the dust has settled, there can be no doubt that this law is working. It has changed, and in some cases saved, American lives. It set this country on a smarter, stronger course.
And today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law; after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law; after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court — the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.
This morning, the Court upheld a critical part of this law -– the part that’s made it easier for Americans to afford health insurance regardless of where you live. If the partisan challenge to this law had succeeded, millions of Americans would have had thousands of dollars’ worth of tax credits taken from them. For many, insurance would have become unaffordable again. Many would have become uninsured again. Ultimately, everyone’s premiums could have gone up. America would have gone backwards. And that’s not what we do. That’s not what America does. We move forward.
So today is a victory for hardworking Americans all across this country whose lives will continue to become more secure in a changing economy because of this law.
If you’re a parent, you can keep your kids on your plan until they turn 26 — something that has covered millions of young people so far. That’s because of this law.
If you’re a senior, or an American with a disability, this law gives you discounts on your prescriptions — something that has saved 9 million Americans an average of $1,600 so far.
If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged more than anybody else — even if you’ve had cancer, or your husband had heart disease, or just because you’re a woman. Your insurer has to offer free preventive services like mammograms. They can’t place annual or lifetime caps on your care because of this law.
Because of this law, and because of today’s decision, millions of Americans who I hear from every single day will continue to receive the tax credits that have given about eight in ten people who buy insurance on the new marketplaces the choice of a health care plan that costs less than $100 a month.
And when it comes to preexisting conditions — someday, our grandkids will ask us if there was really a time when America discriminated against people who get sick. Because that is something this law has ended for good. That affects everybody with health insurance — not just folks who got insurance through the Affordable Care Act. All of America has protections it didn’t have before.
As the law’s provisions have gradually taken effect, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained coverage so far. Nearly one in three Americans who was uninsured a few years ago is insured today. The uninsured rate in America is the lowest since we began to keep records. And that is something we can all be proud of.
Meanwhile, the law has helped hold the price of health care to its slowest growth in 50 years. If your family gets insurance through your job — so you’re not using the Affordable Care Act — you’re still paying about $1,800 less per year on average than you would be if we hadn’t done anything. By one leading measure, what business owners pay out in wages and salaries is now finally growing faster than what they spend on health insurance. That hasn’t happened in 17 years — and that’s good for workers and it’s good for the economy.
The point is, this is not an abstract thing anymore. This is not a set of political talking points. This is reality. We can see how it is working. This law is working exactly as it’s supposed to. In many ways, this law is working better than we expected it to. For all the misinformation campaigns, all the doomsday predictions, all the talk of death panels and job destruction, for all the repeal attempts — this law is now helping tens of millions of Americans.
And they’ve told me that it has changed their lives for the better. I’ve had moms come up and say, my son was able to see a doctor and get diagnosed, and catch a tumor early, and he’s alive today because of this law. This law is working. And it’s going to keep doing just that.
Five years in, this is no longer about a law. This is not about the Affordable Care Act as legislation, or Obamacare as a political football. This is health care in America.
And unlike Social Security or Medicare, a lot of Americans still don’t know what Obamacare is beyond all the political noise in Washington. Across the country, there remain people who are directly benefitting from the law but don’t even know it. And that’s okay. There’s no card that says “Obamacare” when you enroll. But that’s by design, for this has never been a government takeover of health care, despite cries to the contrary. This reform remains what it’s always been: a set of fairer rules and tougher protections that have made health care in America more affordable, more attainable, and more about you — the consumer, the American people. It’s working.
And with this case behind us, let’s be clear — we’ve still got work to do to make health care in America even better. We’ll keep working to provide consumers with all the tools you need to make informed choices about your care. We’ll keep working to increase the use of preventive care that avoids bigger problems down the road. We’ll keep working to boost the steadily improving quality of care in hospitals, and bring down costs even lower, make the system work even better. Already we’ve seen reductions, for example, in the number of readmissions at hospitals. That saves our society money, it saves families money, makes people healthier.
We’re making progress. We’re going to keep working to get more people covered. I’m going to work as hard as I can to convince more governors and state legislatures to take advantage of the law, put politics aside, and expand Medicaid and cover their citizens. We’ve still got states out there that, for political reasons, are not covering millions of people that they could be covering, despite the fact that the federal government is picking up the tab.
So we’ve got more work to do. But what we’re not going to do is unravel what has now been woven into the fabric of America. And my greatest hope is that rather than keep refighting battles that have been settled again and again and again, I can work with Republicans and Democrats to move forward. Let’s join together, make health care in America even better.
Three generations ago, we chose to end an era when seniors were left to languish in poverty. We passed Social Security, and slowly it was woven into the fabric of America and made a difference in the lives of millions of people. Two generations ago, we chose to end an age when Americans in their golden years didn’t have the guarantee of health care. Medicare was passed, and it helped millions of people.
This generation of Americans chose to finish the job — to turn the page on a past when our citizens could be denied coverage just for being sick. To close the books on a history where tens of millions of Americans had no hope of finding decent, affordable health care; had to hang their chances on fate. We chose to write a new chapter, where in a new economy, Americans are free to change their jobs or start a business, chase a new idea, raise a family, free from fear, secure in the knowledge that portable, affordable health care is there for us and always will be. And that if we get sick, we’re not going to lose our home. That if we get sick, that we’re going to be able to still look after our families.
That’s when America soars -– when we look out for one another. When we take care of each other. When we root for one another’s success. When we strive to do better and to be better than the generation that came before us, and try to build something better for generations to come. That’s why we do what we do. That’s the whole point of public service.
So this was a good day for America. Let’s get back to work. (Applause.)
11:45 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 25, 2015
Source: WH, 6-24-15
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a significant shift in hostage-takings by terrorist organizations and criminal groups that has challenged the ability of the U.S. Government to secure the safe recovery of U.S. nationals taken captive. The wanton and brutal murder of several Americans held hostage over the past year lays bare the magnitude of this challenge. Other less publicized cases of Americans held hostage overseas, including several who remain in captivity, are no less tragic and have presented the U.S. Government with a similar set of difficult choices. The Government’s response to hostage-takings must therefore evolve to account for this new reality. Moreover, the Government’s handling of these hostage cases – and in particular its interaction and communication with families whose loved ones have been taken hostage – must improve. To that end, in December 2014 President Obama directed a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward overseas hostage-takings.
Based on the recommendations resulting from this review, the President approved Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 29, U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts and issued an Executive Order on the recovery of U.S. hostages taken abroad, which directs key organizational changes to ensure that the U.S. Government is doing all that it can to safely recover Americans taken hostage overseas and is being responsive to the needs of their families. The key findings and recommendations set forth by the review can be found in the Report on U.S. Hostage Policy at the following link. PPD-29 and the Executive Order can be found on WhiteHouse.gov….READ MORE
Source: WH, 6-24-15
SUBJECT: U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts
The 21st century has witnessed a significant shift in hostagetakings by terrorist organizations and criminal groups abroad. Hostage-takers frequently operate in unstable environments that challenge the ability of the United States Government and its partners and allies to operate effectively. Increasingly, hostage-takers target private citizens — including journalists and aid workers — as well as Government officials. They also utilize sophisticated networks and tactics to derive financial, propaganda, and recruitment benefits from hostage-taking operations. The United States Government’s response to hostage-takings must evolve with this ever-changing landscape.
This Presidential Policy Directive (PPD), including its classified annex, supersedes and revokes NSPD-12, United States Citizens Taken Hostage Abroad, dated February 18, 2002, along with Annex 1 and Appendix A to NSPD-12, dated December 4, 2008. The policy directs a renewed, more agile United States Government response to hostage-takings of U.S. nationals and other specified individuals abroad. It establishes processes to enable consistent implementation of the policies set forth in this directive, to ensure close interagency coordination in order to employ all appropriate means to recover U.S. hostages held abroad, and to significantly enhance engagement with hostages’ families. It also reaffirms the United States Government’s personnel recovery policy, which seeks to prevent, prepare for, and respond to hostage-takings and other circumstances in which U.S. nationals are isolated from friendly support. This policy will thereby further important national security and foreign policy interests by strengthening the protections for U.S. nationals outside the United States….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 24, 2015
Source: WH, 6-18-15
I welcome His Holiness Pope Francis’s encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope’s decision to make the case – clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position – for action on global climate change.
As Pope Francis so eloquently stated this morning, we have a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children’s children, from the damaging impacts of climate change. I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution, to increase clean energy and energy efficiency, to build resilience in vulnerable communities, and to encourage responsible stewardship of our natural resources. We must also protect the world’s poor, who have done the least to contribute to this looming crisis and stand to lose the most if we fail to avert it.
I look forward to discussing these issues with Pope Francis when he visits the White House in September. And as we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders–and all God’s children–will reflect on Pope Francis’s call to come together to care for our common home.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 18, 2015
Source: WH, 6-18-15
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. This morning, I spoke with, and Vice President Biden spoke with, Mayor Joe Riley and other leaders of Charleston to express our deep sorrow over the senseless murders that took place last night.
Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church. We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night. And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.
Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.
Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.
The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them. The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation. We understand that the suspect is in custody. And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.
Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case. But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing.
But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.
The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.
The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome. That, certainly, was Dr. King’s hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.
He said they lived meaningful lives, and they died nobly. “They say to each of us,” Dr. King said, “black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.
“And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”
Reverend Pinckney and his congregation understood that spirit. Their Christian faith compelled them to reach out not just to members of their congregation, or to members of their own communities, but to all in need. They opened their doors to strangers who might enter a church in search of healing or redemption.
Mother Emanuel church and its congregation have risen before –- from flames, from an earthquake, from other dark times -– to give hope to generations of Charlestonians. And with our prayers and our love, and the buoyancy of hope, it will rise again now as a place of peace.
12:28 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 18, 2015
Source: WH, 6-9-15
Washington Marriott Wardman Park
11:58 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat. Thank you so much.
Well, I don’t know whether this is appropriate, but I just told Sister Carol I love her. (Laughter.) On a big stage. It is true, though — I do. She is just wonderful. Her dedication to doing God’s work here on Earth, her commitment to serving “the least of these,” here steadiness, her strength, her steadfast voice have been an inspiration to me. We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her. I want to thank the entire Catholic Health Association for the incredible work you do. (Applause.)
And it’s true, I just love nuns, generally. (Laughter.) I’m just saying. (Laughter.)
It is an honor to join you on your 100th anniversary of bringing hope and healing to so many. I want to acknowledge Dignity Health and its CEO, Lloyd Dean — (applause) — honored by the Catholic Health Association last night for his outstanding support of our efforts to improve health care in America. He has been a great friend.
I want to thank Ascension Health, a great provider of care — that also recently raised its minimum wage. (Applause.) I want to thank Secretary Burwell and the members of Congress who are here today, because they have been obviously doing extraordinary work. (Applause.)
My first job in Chicago when I moved after college to work as a community organizer — my first job was funded by the Campaign for Human Development, an anti-poverty initiative of the Catholic Church. And my first office was at Holy Rosary Church on the South Side of Chicago, across from Palmer Park. (Applause.) You’re clapping there — she knows Holy Rosary. (Laughter.) And the task was to work with parishes and neighbors and faith and community leaders to bring low-income people together, to stitch neighborhoods together, clergy and laypeople. And the work was hard, and there were times where it was dispiriting. We had plenty of setbacks. There were times where I felt like quitting, where I wondered if the path I’d chosen was too hard.
But despite these challenges, I saw how kindness and compassion and faith can change the arc of people’s lives. And I saw the power of faith — a shared belief that every human being, made in the image of God, deserves to live in dignity; that all children, no matter who they are or where they come from or how much money they were born into, ought to have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential; that we are all called, in the words of His Holiness Pope Francis, “to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness, and respect for every human being.”
And at the time, when I had just moved to Chicago, the Cardinal there was Cardinal Bernardin, an extraordinary man. And he understood that part of that commitment, part of that commitment to the dignity of every human being also meant that we had to care about the health of every human being. And he articulated that, and the Church articulated that, as we moved at the state level in the Illinois legislature, once I was elected there later on in life, to advance the proposition that health care is not a privilege, it is a right.
And that belief is at the heart of the Catholic Health Association’s mission. For decades, your member hospitals have been on the front lines, often serving the marginalized, the vulnerable and the sick and the uninsured. And that belief is at the heart of why we came together more than five years ago to reform our health care system — to guarantee that every American has access to quality, affordable care.
So I’m here today to say thank you for your tireless efforts to make health reform a reality. Without your commitment to compassionate care, without your moral force, we would not have succeeded. (Applause.) We would not have succeeded had it not been for you and the foundation you had laid. (Applause.)
And pursuing health care reform wasn’t about making good on a campaign promise for me. It was, remember, in the wake of an economic crisis with a very human toll and it was integral to restoring the basic promise of America — the notion that in this country, if you work hard and you take responsibility, you can get ahead. You can make it if you try. Everything we’ve done these past six years and a half years to rebuild our economy on a new foundation — from rescuing and retooling our industries, to reforming our schools, to rethinking the way we produce and use energy, to reducing our deficits — all of that has been in pursuit of that one goal, creating opportunity for all people. And health reform was a critical part of that effort.
For decades, a major barrier to economic opportunity was our broken health care system. It exposed working families to the insecurities of a changing economy. It saddled our businesses with skyrocketing costs that made it hard to hire or pay a good wage. It threatened our entire nation’s long-term prosperity, was the primary driver of our deficits.
And for hospitals like yours, the fact that so many people didn’t have basic care meant you were scrambling and scratching every single day to try to figure out how do we keep our doors open.
Leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy wanted to reform it. For as long as there were Americans who couldn’t afford decent health care, as long as there were people who had to choose between paying for medicine or paying the rent, as long as there were parents who had to figure out whether they could sell or borrow to pay for a child’s treatment just a few months more, and beg for God’s mercy to make it work in time — as long as those things were happening, America was not living up to our highest ideals.
And that’s why providers and faith leaders like you called for expanding access to affordable care. Every day, you saw the very personal suffering of those who go without it. And it seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Every time there was enough political will to alleviate that suffering and to reform the health care system — whether it was under Democratic Presidents or Republican Presidents — you had special interests arraying and keeping the status quo in place. And each year that passed without reform the stakes kept getting higher.
By the time I took office, thousands of Americans were losing their health insurance every single day. Many people died each year because they didn’t have health insurance. Many families who thought they had coverage were driven into bankruptcy by out-of-pocket costs. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens had no coverage at all in this, the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth. And despite being the only advanced economy in the world without universal health care, our health care costs grew to be the most expensive in the world with no slowing in sight. And that trend strained the budgets of families and businesses and our government.
And so we determined that we could not keep kicking that can down the road any longer. We could not leave that problem for another generation to solve, or another generation after that.
And remember, this was not easy. (Laughter.) There were those who thought health care reform was too messy, and too complicated, and too politically risky. I had pollsters showing me stuff, and 85 percent of folks at any given time had health care and so they weren’t necessarily incentivized to support it. And you could scare the heck out of them about even if they weren’t entirely satisfied with the existing system that somehow it would be terrible to change it. All kinds of warning signs about how tough this was — bad politics.
But for every politician and pundit who said we should wait, why rush, barely a day went by where I didn’t hear from hardworking Americans who didn’t have a moment left to lose. These were men and women from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all races, all faiths, in big cities, small towns, red states, blue states. Middle-class families with coverage that turned out not to be there for them when they needed it. Moms and dads desperately seeking care for a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again — or fearful as their child got older, what was there future going to be because they weren’t going to be able to get insurance once they left the house. Small business owners forced to choose between insuring their employees and keeping the “open” sign hanging in the window.
And every one of these stories tugged at me in a personal way — because I spoke about seeing my mom worry about how she was going to deal with her finances when she got very sick. And I was reminded of the fear that Michelle and I felt when Sasha was a few months old and we had to race to the hospital, in the emergency room learning that she had meningitis — that we caught only because we had a wonderful pediatrician and regular care. Never felt so scared or helpless in my life.
We were fortunate enough to have good health insurance. And I remember looking around in that emergency room and thinking what about the parents who aren’t that lucky? What about the parents who get hit with a bill of $20,000 or $30,000, and they’ve got no idea how to pay for it? What about those parents with kids who have a chronic illness like asthma and have to keep going back to the emergency room because they don’t have a regular doctor, and the bills never stop coming? Who’s going to stand up for them?
Behind every single story was a simple question: What kind of country do we want to be? Are we a country that’s defined by values that say access to health care is a commodity awarded to only the highest bidders, or by the values that say health care is a fundamental right? Do we believe that where you start should determine how far you go, or do we believe that in the greatest nation on Earth, everybody deserves the opportunity to make it — to make of their lives what they will?
The rugged individualism that defines America has always been bound by a shared set of values, an enduring sense that we’re in this together, that America is not a place where we simply turn away from the sick, or turn our backs on the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. It is a place sustained by the idea: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper — that we have an obligation to put ourselves in our neighbor’s shoes and see each other’s common humanity.
And so, after a century of talk, after decades of trying, after a year of sustained debate, we finally made health care reform a reality here in America. (Applause.)
And despite the constant doom-and-gloom predictions, the unending Chicken Little warnings that somehow making health insurance fairer and easier to buy would lead to the end of freedom, the end of the American way of life — lo and behold, it did not happen. None of this came to pass. In fact, in a lot of ways, the Affordable Care Act worked out better than some of us anticipated.
Nearly one in three uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever. (Applause.) Ever. On top of that, tens of millions more enjoy new protections with the coverage that they’ve already got. That 85 percent who had health insurance, they may not know that they’ve got a better deal now than they did, but they do. Americans can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions — from you having had cancer to you having had a baby. Women can’t be charged more just for being a woman. (Applause.) And they get free preventive services like mammograms. And there are no more annual or lifetime caps on the care patients receive.
Medicare has been strengthened and protected. We’ve added 13 years to its actuarial life. The financial difference for business owners trying to invest and grow, and the families trying to save and spend — that’s real, too. Health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years. Employer premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record. The average family premium is $1,800 lower today than it would have been had trends over the decade before the ACA passed continued.
In the years to come, countless Americans who can now buy plans that are portable and affordable on a competitive marketplace will be free to chase their own ideas, unleash new enterprises across the country, knowing they’ll be able to buy health insurance.
And here’s the thing — that security won’t just be there for us. It will be there for our kids as they go through life. When they graduate from college, they’re looking for that first job, they can stay on our plans until they’re 26. When they start a family, pregnancy will no longer count against them as a preexisting condition. When they change jobs or lose a job, or strike out on their own to start a business, they’ll still be able to get good coverage. They’ll have that peace of mind all the way until they retire into a Medicare that now has cheaper prescription drugs and wellness visits to make sure that they stay healthy.
And while we were told again and again that Obamacare would be a job-killer — amazingly enough, some critics still peddle this notion — it turns out in reality, America has experienced 63 straight months of private sector job growth — a streak that started the month we passed the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) The longest streak of private sector job growth on record — that adds up to 12.6 million new jobs. (Applause.)
So the critics stubbornly ignore reality. In reality, there is a self-employed single mom of three who couldn’t afford health insurance until health reform passed and she qualified for Medicaid in her state. And she was finally able to get a mammogram, which detected early-stage breast cancer and may have saved her life. That’s the reality, not the mythology.
In reality, there are parents in Texas whose autistic son couldn’t speak. Even with health insurance, they struggled to pay for his treatment. But health reform meant they could buy an affordable secondary plan that covered therapy for their son — and today, that little boy can tell his parents that he loves them. That’s the reality. (Applause.)
In reality, there’s a self-employed barber from Tennessee — who happens to be a Republican — who couldn’t afford health insurance until our new marketplace opened up. And once he bought a plan, he finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. In the old days, without coverage, he wouldn’t have even known that he was sick. And today, he’s now cancer-free.
So five years in, what we are talking about it is no longer just a law. It’s no longer just a theory. This isn’t even just about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. This isn’t about myths or rumors that folks try to sustain. There is a reality that people on the ground day to day are experiencing. Their lives are better.
This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another. This is health care in America — which is why, once you get outside of Washington and leave behind the Beltway chatter and the politics, Americans support this new reality. When you talk to people who actually are enrolled in a new marketplace plan, the vast majority of them like their coverage. The vast majority are satisfied with their choice of doctors and hospitals and satisfied with their monthly premiums. They like their reality.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have more work to do. Sister Carol and I were talking backstage — we know we got more work to do. Like any serious attempt at change, there were disruptions in the rollout, there are policies we can put in place to make health care work even better. Secretary Burwell is talking about all the things we have to do together around delivery system reform. We have to protect the coverage that people have now and sign even more people up. We need more governors and state legislatures to expand Medicaid, which was a central part of the architecture of the overall plan. We have to continue to improve the quality of care. And we know we can still bring down costs.
And none of this is going to be easy. Nobody suggests that somehow our health care system is perfect as a consequence of the law being passed, but it is serving so many more people so much better. And we’re not going to go backwards. There’s something, I have to say, just deeply cynical about the ceaseless, endless partisan attempts to roll back progress. I mean, I understood folks being skeptical or worried before the law passed and there wasn’t a reality there to examine. But once you see millions of people of having health care, once you see that all the bad things that were predicted didn’t happen, you’d think that it would be time to move one.
Let’s figure out how to make it better. It seems so cynical to want to take coverage away from millions of people; to take care away from people who need it the most; to punish millions with higher costs of care and unravel what’s now been woven into the fabric of America.
And that kind of cynicism flies in the face of our history. Our history is one of each generation striving to do better and to be better than the last. Just as we’ll never go back to a time when seniors were left to languish in poverty or not have any health insurance in their golden years. There was a generation that didn’t have that guarantee of health care. We’re not going to go back to a time when our citizens can be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. When tens of millions of people couldn’t afford decent, affordable care — that wasn’t a better America. That’s not freedom. The freedom to languish in illness, or to be bankrupt because somebody in your family gets stick — that’s not who we are. That’s not what we’re about.
Debra Lea Oren of Pennsylvania knows that. Debra suffers from osteoarthritis that was so severe that it put her in a wheelchair. And for years she couldn’t stand or walk at all, and was in constant pain — through no fault of her own, just the twists and turns of life. And without health insurance to get treatment, it seemed as though she might never again live a life that was full. Today, Debra is enrolled in affordable health coverage, was able to have surgery to replace her knees. She’s back on her feet. She walks her dogs, shops at the grocery store, gets to her doctor’s appointments. She’s cooking, she’s exercising, regaining her health.
Debra couldn’t be here today, but she recently wrote to me and she said: “I walk with my husband Michael and hold hands. It’s like a whole new world for me.” Just walking and holding hands — something that one of our fellow Americans for years could not do.
Every day, miracles happen in your hospitals. But remaking Debra’s world didn’t require a miracle. It just required that Debra have access to something that she and every other American has a right to expect, which is health care coverage.
And while there are outcomes that we can calculate and enumerate — the number of newly insured families, the number of lives saved — those numbers all add up to success in this reform effort. But there are also outcomes that are harder to calculate — in the tally of pain and tragedy and bankruptcies that have been averted, but also in the security of a parent who can afford to take her kid to the doctor; or the dignity of a grandfather who can get the preventive care that he needs; or the freedom of an entrepreneur who can start a new venture — or the joy of a wife who thought she’d never again take her husband’s hand and go for a walk.
In the end, that’s why you do what you do. Isn’t that what this is all about? Is there any greater measure of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness than those simple pleasures that are afforded because you have good health and you have some security?
More than five years ago, I said that while I was not the first President to take up this cause, I was determined to be the last. And now it’s up to all of us — the citizens in this room and across the country- — to continue to help make the right to health care a reality for all Americans. And if we keep faith with one another and keep working for each other to create opportunity for everybody who strives for it, then, in the words of Senator Ted Kennedy, “the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.”
It couldn’t have happened without you. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you all. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
12:25 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 9, 2015
Source: WH, 6-8-15
Elmau Briefing Center
4:08 P.M. CEST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. Let me begin by once again thanking Chancellor Merkel and the people of Bavaria and Germany for their extraordinary hospitality here at the G7. My stay here has been extraordinary. I wish I could stay longer. And one of the pleasures of being President is scouting out places that you want to come back to, where you don’t have to spend all your time in a conference room. The setting is breathtaking. Our German friends have been absolutely wonderful, and the success of this summit is a tribute to their outstanding work.
The G7 represents some of the largest economies in the world. But in our G7 partners, the United States also embraces some of our strongest allies and closest friends in the world. So, even as we work to promote the growth that creates jobs and opportunity, we’re also here to stand up for the fundamental principles that we share as democracies: for freedom; for peace; for the right of nations and peoples to decide their own destiny; for universal human rights and the dignity of every human being. And I’m pleased that here in Krün, we showed that on the most pressing global challenges, America and our allies stand united.
We agree that the best way to sustain the global economic recovery is by focusing on jobs and growth. That’s what I’m focused on in the United States. On Friday, we learned that our economy created another 280,000 jobs in May — the strongest month of the year so far — and more than 3 million new jobs over the past year, nearly the fastest pace in over a decade. We’ve now seen five straight years of private sector job growth — 12.6 million new jobs created — the longest streak on record. The unemployment rate is near its lowest level in seven years. Wages for American workers continue to rise. And since I took office, the United States has cut our deficit by two-thirds. So, in the global economy, America is a major source of strength.
At the same time, we recognize that the global economy, while growing, is still not performing at its full potential, And we agreed on a number of necessary steps. Here in Europe, we support efforts to find a path that enables Greece to carry out key reforms and return to growth within a strong, stable and growing Eurozone. I updated my partners on our effort with Congress to pass trade promotion authority so we can move ahead with TPP in the Asia Pacific region, and T-TIP here in Europe –agreements with high standards to protect workers, public safety and the environment.
We continue to make progress toward a strong global climate agreement this year in Paris. All the G7 countries have now put forward our post-2020 targets for reducing carbon emissions, and we’ll continue to urge other significant emitters to do so as well. We’ll continue to meet our climate finance commitments to help developing countries transition to low-carbon growth.
As we’ve done in the U.S., the G7 agreed on the need to integrate climate risks into development assistance and investment programs across the board, and to increase access to risk insurance to help developing countries respond to and recover from climate-related disasters. And building on the Power Africa initiative I launched two years ago, the G7 will work to mobilize more financing for clean-energy projects in Africa.
With respect to security, the G7 remains strongly united in support for Ukraine. We’ll continue to provide economic support and technical assistance that Ukraine needs as it moves ahead on critical reforms to transform its economy and strengthen its democracy. As we’ve seen again in recent days, Russian forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is now the second year in a row that the G7 has met without Russia -— another example of Russia’s isolation -— and every member of the G7 continues to maintain sanctions on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.
Now, it’s important to recognize the Russian economy has been seriously weakened. The ruble and foreign investment are down; Inflation is up. The Russian central bank has lost more than $150 billion in reserves. Russian banks and firms are virtually locked out of the international markets. Russian energy companies are struggling to import the services and technologies they need for complex energy projects. Russian defense firms have been cut off from key technologies. Russia is in deep recession. So Russia’s actions in Ukraine are hurting Russia and hurting the Russian people.
Here at the G7, we agreed that even as we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution, sanctions against Russia will remain in place so long as Russia continues to violate its obligations under the Minsk agreements. Our European partners reaffirmed that they will maintain sanctions on Russia until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented, which means extending the EU’s existing sectoral sanctions beyond July. And the G7 is making it clear that, if necessary, we stand ready to impose additional, significant sanctions against Russia.
Beyond Europe, we discussed the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and we remain united heading into the final stages of the talks. Iran has a historic opportunity to resolve the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program, and we agreed that Iran needs to seize that opportunity.
Our discussions with Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq, President Caid Essebsi of Tunisia and President Buhari of Nigeria were a chance to address the threats of ISIL and Boko Haram. The G7 countries, therefore, agreed to work -— together and with our partners -— to further coordinate our counterterrorism efforts.
As many of the world’s leading partners in global development — joined by leaders of Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and the African Union — we discussed how to maximize the impact of our development partnerships. We agreed to continue our landmark initiative to promote food security and nutrition — part of our effort to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. We’ll continue to work with our partners in West Africa to get Ebola cases down to zero. And as part of our Global Health Security Agenda, I’m pleased that the G7 made a major commitment to help 60 countries over the next five years achieve specific targets to better prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks before they become epidemics.
And finally, I want to commend Chancellor Merkel for ensuring that this summit included a focus on expanding educational and economic opportunities for women and girls. The G7 committed to expanding career training for women in our own countries, and to increase technical and vocational training in developing countries, which will help all of our nations prosper.
So, again, I want to thank Angela and the people of Germany for their extraordinary hospitality. I leave here confident that when it comes to the key challenges of our time, America and our closest allies stand shoulder to shoulder.
So with that, I will take some questions. And I will start off with Jeff Mason of Reuters.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. After your meetings here, you mentioned Greece in your opening statement. Do you believe that the Europeans are being too tough on Greece in these talks? And what else needs to be done on both sides to ensure there’s a deal and to ensure that there isn’t the undue harm to financial markets that you’ve warned about?
And on a separate and somewhat related topic, the French told reporters today that you said to G7 leaders that you’re concerned that the dollar is too strong. What did you say exactly? And are you concerned that the dollar is too strong?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: First of all, don’t believe unnamed quotes. I did not say that. And I make a practice of not commenting on the daily fluctuations of the dollar or any other currency.
With respect to Greece, I think that not only our G7 partners but the IMF and other institutions that were represented here feel a sense of urgency in finding a path to resolve the situation there. And what it’s going to require is Greece being serious about making some important reforms not only to satisfy creditors, but, more importantly, to create a platform whereby the Greek economy can start growing again and prosper. And so the Greeks are going to have to follow through and make some tough political choices that will be good for the long term.
I also think it’s going to be important for the international community and the international financial agencies to recognize the extraordinary challenges that Greeks face. And if both sides are showing a sufficient flexibility, then I think we can get this problem resolved. But it will require some tough decisions for all involved, and we will continue to consult with all the parties involved to try to encourage that kind of outcome.
Q Are you confident it will happen before the deadline?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that everybody wants to make it happen and they’re working hard to get it done.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. How frustrated are you that after you personally raised your concerns about cybersecurity with the Chinese President that a massive attack on U.S. personnel files seems to have originated from China? Was the Chinese government involved? And separately, as a sports fan, can you give us your reaction to the FIFA bribery scandal? Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to FIFA, I cannot comment on a pending case by our Attorney General. I will say that in conversations I’ve had here in Europe, people think it is very important for FIFA to be able to operate with integrity and transparency and accountability.
And so as the investigation and charges proceed, I think we have to keep in mind that although football — soccer — depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on, is a game, it’s also a massive business. It is a source of incredible national pride, and people want to make sure that it operates with integrity.
The United States, by the way, since we keep on getting better and better at each World Cup, we want to make sure that a sport that’s gaining popularity is conducted in an upright manner.
I don’t want to discuss — because we haven’t publicly unveiled who we think may have engaged in these cyber-attacks — but I can tell you that we have known for a long time that there are significant vulnerabilities and that these vulnerabilities are going to accelerate as time goes by, both in systems within government and within the private sector. This is why it’s so important that Congress moves forward on passing cyber legislation — cybersecurity legislation that we’ve been pushing for; why, over the last several years, I’ve been standing up new mechanisms inside of government for us to investigate what happens and to start finding more effective solutions.
Part of the problem is, is that we’ve got very old systems. And we discovered this new breach in OPM precisely because we’ve initiated this process of inventorying and upgrading these old systems to address existing vulnerabilities. And what we are doing is going agency by agency, and figuring out what can we fix with better practices and better computer hygiene by personnel, and where do we need new systems and new infrastructure in order to protect information not just of government employees or government activities, but also, most importantly, where there’s an interface between government and the American people.
And this is going to be a big project and we’re going to have to keep on doing it, because both state and non-state actors are sending everything they’ve got at trying to breach these systems. In some cases, it’s non-state actors who are engaging in criminal activity and potential theft. In the case of state actors, they’re probing for intelligence or, in some cases, trying to bring down systems in pursuit of their various foreign policy objectives. In either case, we’re going to have to be much more aggressive, much more attentive than we have been.
And this problem is not going to go away. It is going to accelerate. And that means that we have to be as nimble, as aggressive, and as well-resourced as those who are trying to break into these systems.
Q Thanks, Mr. President. I wanted to ask about two things that were on the agenda at the G7 this weekend. The first was the Islamic State. You said yesterday, ahead of your meeting with Prime Minister Cameron, that you’d assess what was working and what wasn’t. So I’m wondering, bluntly, what is not working in the fight against the Islamic State. And in today’s bilateral with Prime Minister Abadi, you pledged to step up assistance to Iraq. I’m wondering if that includes additional U.S. military personnel.
Separately, on trade, Chancellor Merkel said today that she was pleased you would get fast track authority. I’m wondering if that means that you gave her or other leaders here assurance that it would go through the House. And if it doesn’t, what does it say about your ability to achieve meaningful agreements with Congress for the remainder of your time in office?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, on the latter question, I’m not going to hypothesize about not getting it done. I intend to get it done. And, hopefully, we’re going to get a vote soon because I think it’s the right thing to do.
With respect to ISIL, we have made significant progress in pushing back ISIL from areas in which they had occupied or disrupted local populations, but we’ve also seen areas like in Ramadi where they’re displaced in one place and then they come back in, in another. And they’re nimble, and they’re aggressive, and they’re opportunistic.
So one of the areas where we’re going to have to improve is the speed at which we’re training Iraqi forces. Where we’ve trained Iraqi forces directly and equipped them, and we have a train-and-assist posture, they operate effectively. Where we haven’t, morale, lack of equipment, et cetera, may undermine the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces. So we want to get more Iraqi security forces trained, fresh, well-equipped and focused. And President Abadi wants the same thing.
So we’re reviewing a range of plans for how we might do that, essentially accelerating the number of Iraqi forces that are properly trained and equipped and have a focused strategy and good leadership. And when a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people. We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis, as well, about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place. And so the details of that are not yet worked out.
Q Is it fair to say that additional military personnel — U.S. military personnel are of what’s under consideration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think what is fair to say is that all the countries in the international coalition are prepared to do more to train Iraqi security forces if they feel like that additional work is being taken advantage of. And one of the things that we’re still seeing is — in Iraq — places where we’ve got more training capacity than we have recruits. So part of my discussion with Prime Minister Abadi was how do we make sure that we get more recruits in. A big part of the answer there is our outreach to Sunni tribes.
We’ve seen Sunni tribes who are not only willing and prepared to fight ISIL, but have been successful at rebuffing ISIL. But it has not been happening as fast as it needs to. And so one of the efforts that I’m hoping to see out of Prime Minister Abadi, and the Iraqi legislature when they’re in session, is to move forward on a National Guard law that would help to devolve some of the security efforts in places like Anbar to local folks, and to get those Sunni tribes involved more rapidly.
This is part of what helped defeat AQI — the precursor of ISIL — during the Iraq War in 2006. Without that kind of local participation, even if you have a short-term success, it’s very hard to hold those areas.
The other area where we’ve got to make a lot more progress is on stemming the flow of foreign fighters. Now, you’ll recall that I hosted a U.N. General Security Council meeting specifically on this issue, and we’ve made some progress, but not enough. We are still seeing thousands of foreign fighters flowing into, first, Syria, and then, oftentimes, ultimately into Iraq.
And not all of that is preventable, but a lot of it is preventable — if we’ve got better cooperation, better coordination, better intelligence, if we are monitoring what’s happening at the Turkish-Syria border more effectively. This is an area where we’ve been seeking deeper cooperation with Turkish authorities who recognize it’s a problem but haven’t fully ramped up the capacity they need. And this is something that I think we got to spend a lot of time on.
If we can cut off some of that foreign fighter flow then we’re able to isolate and wear out ISIL forces that are already there. Because we’re taking a lot of them off the battlefield, but if they’re being replenished, then it doesn’t solve the problem over the long term.
The final point that I emphasized to Prime Minister Abadi is the political agenda of inclusion remains as important as the military fight that’s out there. If Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia all feel as if they’re concerns are being addressed, and that operating within a legitimate political structure can meet their need for security, prosperity, non-discrimination, then we’re going to have much easier time.
And the good news is Prime Minister Abadi is very much committed to that principle. But, obviously, he’s inheriting a legacy of a lot of mistrust between various groups in Iraq — he’s having to take a lot of political risks. In some cases, there are efforts to undermine those efforts by other political factions within Iraq. And so we’ve got to continue to monitor that and support those who are on the right side of the issue there.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned that the U.S. and its European allies have reached a consensus on extending the sanctions against Russia. Is there a consensus, though, about what specifically the next step should be if Russia continues to violate the Minsk agreement? And also, can you deter Russian aggression in other parts of Eastern Europe without a permanent U.S. troop presence?
And separately, I wanted to ask you about the possibility that the court battle over your actions on immigration could extend late into your term. Do you think that there’s anything more that you can do for the people who would have benefitted from that program and now are in limbo? And how do you view the possibility of your term ending without accomplishing your goals on immigration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: On Ukraine and Russia and Minsk, there is strong consensus that we need to keep pushing Russia to abide by the terms of the Minsk agreement; we need to continue to support and encourage Ukraine to meet its obligations under Minsk — that until that’s completed, sanctions remain in place.
There was discussion about additional steps that we might need to take if Russia, working through separatists, doubled down on aggression inside of Ukraine. Those discussions are taking place at a technical level, not yet at a political level — because I think the first goal here going into a European Council meeting that’s coming up is just rolling over the existing sanctions. But I think at a technical level, we want to be prepared.
Our hope is, is that we don’t have to take additional steps because the Minsk agreement is met. And I want to give enormous credit to Chancellor Merkel, along with President Hollande, who have shown extraordinary stick-to-itiveness and patience in trying to get that done.
Ultimately, this is going to be an issue for Mr. Putin. He’s got to make a decision: Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to re-create the glories of the Soviet empire? Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?
And as I mentioned earlier, the costs that the Russian people are bearing are severe. That’s being felt. It may not always be understood why they’re suffering, because of state media inside of Russia and propaganda coming out of state media in Russia and to Russian speakers. But the truth of the matter is, is that the Russian people would greatly benefit. And, ironically, one of the rationales that Mr. Putin provided for his incursions into Ukraine was to protect Russian speakers there. Well, Russian speakers inside of Ukraine are precisely the ones who are bearing the brunt of the fighting. Their economy has collapsed. Their lives are disordered. Many of them are displaced. Their homes may have been destroyed. They’re suffering. And the best way for them to stop suffering is if the Minsk agreement is fully implemented.
Oh, immigration. With respect to immigration, obviously, I’m frustrated by a district court ruling that now is winding its way through the appeals process. We are being as aggressive as we can legally to, first and foremost, appeal that ruling, and then to implement those elements of immigration executive actions that were not challenged in court.
But, obviously, the centerpiece, one of the key provisions for me was being able to get folks who are undocumented to go through a background check — criminal background check — pay back taxes, and then have a legal status. And that requires an entire administrative apparatus and us getting them to apply and come clean.
I made a decision, which I think is the right one, that we should not accept applications until the legal status of this is clarified. I am absolutely convinced this is well within my legal authority, Department of Homeland Security’s legal authority. If you look at the precedent, if you look at the traditional discretion that the executive branch possesses when it comes to applying immigration laws, I am convinced that what we’re doing is lawful, and our lawyers are convinced that what we’re doing is lawful.
But the United States is a government of laws and separations of power, and even if it’s an individual district court judge who’s making this determination, we’ve got to go through the process to challenge it. And until we get clarity there, I don’t want to bring people in, have them apply and jump through a lot of hoops only to have it deferred and delayed further.
Of course, there’s one really great way to solve this problem, and that would be Congress going ahead and acting, which would obviate the need for executive actions. The majority of the American people I think still want to see that happen. I suspect it will be a major topic of the next presidential campaign.
And so we will continue to push as hard as we can on all fronts to fix a broken immigration system. Administratively, we’ll be prepared if and when we get the kind of ruling that I think we should have gotten in the first place about our authorities to go ahead and implement. But ultimately, this has never fully replaced the need for Congress to act. And my hope is, is that after a number of the other issues that we’re working on currently get cleared, that some quiet conversations start back up again, particularly in the Republican Party, about the shortsighted approach that they’re taking when it comes to immigration.
Okay. Christi Parsons.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. More than six million Americans may soon lose health insurance if the Supreme Court this month backs the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act. A growing number of states are looking for assistance as they face the prospect that their residents may lose federal insurance subsidies and their insurance markets may collapse. Yet, your administration has given very little to no guidance on how states can prepare. What can you tell state leaders and advocates who worry that health care markets in half the country may be thrown into chaos?
THE PRESIDENT: What I can tell state leaders is, is that under well-established precedent, there is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case. It has been well documented that those who passed this legislation never intended for folks who were going through the federal exchange not to have their citizens get subsidies. That’s not just the opinion of me; that’s not just the opinion of Democrats; that’s the opinion of the Republicans who worked on the legislation. The record makes it clear.
And under well-established statutory interpretation, approaches that have been repeatedly employed — not just by liberal, Democratic judges, but by conservative judges like some on the current Supreme Court — you interpret a statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for.
And so this should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up. And since we’re going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do.
But, look, I’ve said before and I will repeat again: If, in fact, you have a contorted reading of the statute that says federal-run exchanges don’t provide subsidies for folks who are participating in those exchanges, then that throws off how that exchange operates. It means that millions of people who are obtaining insurance currently with subsidies suddenly aren’t getting those subsidies; many of them can’t afford it; they pull out; and the assumptions that the insurance companies made when they priced their insurance suddenly gets thrown out the window. And it would be disruptive — not just, by the way, for folks in the exchanges, but for those insurance markets in those states, generally.
So it’s a bad idea. It’s not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words in — as we were reminded repeatedly — a couple-thousand-page piece of legislation.
What’s more, the thing is working. I mean, part of what’s bizarre about this whole thing is we haven’t had a lot of conversation about the horrors of Obamacare because none of them come to pass. You got 16 million people who’ve gotten health insurance. The overwhelming majority of them are satisfied with the health insurance. It hasn’t had an adverse effect on people who already had health insurance. The only effect it’s had on people who already had health insurance is they now have an assurance that they won’t be prevented from getting health insurance if they’ve got a preexisting condition, and they get additional protections with the health insurance that they do have.
The costs have come in substantially lower than even our estimates about how much it would cost. Health care inflation overall has continued to be at some of the lowest levels in 50 years. None of the predictions about how this wouldn’t work have come to pass.
And so I’m — A, I’m optimistic that the Supreme Court will play it straight when it comes to the interpretation. And, B, I should mention that if it didn’t, Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision.
But I’m not going to go into a long speculation anticipating disaster.
Q But you’re a plan-ahead kind of guy. Why not have a plan B?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, you know, I want to just make sure that everybody understands that you have a model where all the pieces connect. And there are a whole bunch of scenarios not just in relation to health care, but all kinds of stuff that I do, where if somebody does something that doesn’t make any sense, then it’s hard to fix. And this would be hard to fix. Fortunately, there’s no reason to have to do it. It doesn’t need fixing. All right?
Thank you very much. Thank you to the people of Germany and Bavaria. You guys were wonderful hosts.
4:43 P.M. CEST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 8, 2015
Source: WH, 6-6-15
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 6, 2015
Source: WH, 6-2-15
For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe. That is why, today, I welcome the Senate’s passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which I will sign when it reaches my desk.
After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my Administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country. Just as important, enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs, including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures.
I am gratified that Congress has finally moved forward with this sensible reform legislation. I particularly applaud Senators Leahy and Lee as well as Representatives Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, Conyers, and Nadler for their leadership and tireless efforts to pass this important bipartisan legislative achievement.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 2, 2015
Source: WH, 6-2-15
President Obama Signs Medal of Honor Certificate and Citation
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
11:27 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please be seated.
Welcome to the White House.
Nearly 100 years ago, a 16-year-old kid from the Midwest named Frank Buckles headed to Europe’s Western Front. An ambulance driver, he carried the wounded to safety. He lived to see our troops ship off to another war in Europe. And one in Korea. Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. And Frank Buckles became a quietly powerful advocate for our veterans, and remained that way until he passed away four years ago — America’s last surviving veteran of World War I.
On the day Frank was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Vice President Biden and I went to pay our respects. And we weren’t alone. Americans from across the country came out to express their gratitude as well. They were of different ages, different races, some military, some not. Most had never met Frank. But all of them braved a cold winter’s day to offer a final tribute to a man with whom they shared a powerful conviction — that no one who serves our country should ever be forgotten.
We are a nation — a people — who remember our heroes. We take seriously our responsibility to only send them when war is necessary. We strive to care for them and their families when they come home. We never forget their sacrifice. And we believe that it’s never too late to say thank you. That’s why we’re here this morning.
Today, America honors two of her sons who served in World War I, nearly a century ago. These two soldiers were roughly the same age, dropped into the battlefields of France at roughly the same time. They both risked their own lives to save the lives of others. They both left us decades ago, before we could give them the full recognition that they deserved. But it’s never too late to say thank you. Today, we present America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, to Private Henry Johnson and Sergeant William Shemin.
I want to begin by welcoming and thanking everyone who made this day possible — family, friends, admirers. Some of you have worked for years to honor these heroes, to give them the honor they should have received a long time ago. We are grateful that you never gave up. We are appreciative of your efforts.
As a young man, Henry Johnson joined millions of other African-Americans on the Great Migration from the rural South to the industrial North — a people in search of a better life. He landed in Albany, where he mixed sodas at a pharmacy, worked in a coal yard and as a porter at a train station. And when the United States entered World War I, Henry enlisted. He joined one of only a few units that he could: the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment. The Harlem Hellfighters. And soon, he was headed overseas.
At the time, our military was segregated. Most black soldiers served in labor battalions, not combat units. But General Pershing sent the 369th to fight with the French Army, which accepted them as their own. Quickly, the Hellfighters lived up to their name. And in the early hours of May 15, 1918, Henry Johnson became a legend.
His battalion was in Northern France, tucked into a trench. Some slept — but he couldn’t. Henry and another soldier, Needham Roberts, stood sentry along No Man’s Land. In the pre-dawn, it was pitch black, and silent. And then — a click — the sound of wire cutters.
A German raiding party — at least a dozen soldiers, maybe more — fired a hail of bullets. Henry fired back until his rifle was empty. Then he and Needham threw grenades. Both of them were hit. Needham lost consciousness. Two enemy soldiers began to carry him away while another provided cover, firing at Henry. But Henry refused to let them take his brother in arms. He shoved another magazine into his rifle. It jammed. He turned the gun around and swung it at one of the enemy, knocking him down. Then he grabbed the only weapon he had left — his Bolo knife — and went to rescue Needham. Henry took down one enemy soldier, then the other. The soldier he’d knocked down with his rifle recovered, and Henry was wounded again. But armed with just his knife, Henry took him down, too.
And finally, reinforcements arrived and the last enemy soldier fled. As the sun rose, the scale of what happened became clear. In just a few minutes of fighting, two Americans had defeated an entire raiding party. And Henry Johnson saved his fellow soldier from being taken prisoner.
Henry became one of our most famous soldiers of the war. His picture was printed on recruitment posters and ads for Victory War Stamps. Former President Teddy Roosevelt wrote that he was one of the bravest men in the war. In 1919, Henry rode triumphantly in a victory parade. Crowds lined Fifth Avenue for miles, cheering this American soldier.
Henry was one of the first Americans to receive France’s highest award for valor. But his own nation didn’t award him anything –- not even the Purple Heart, though he had been wounded 21 times. Nothing for his bravery, though he had saved a fellow solder at great risk to himself. His injuries left him crippled. He couldn’t find work. His marriage fell apart. And in his early 30s, he passed away.
Now, America can’t change what happened to Henry Johnson. We can’t change what happened to too many soldiers like him, who went uncelebrated because our nation judged them by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. But we can do our best to make it right. In 1996, President Clinton awarded Henry Johnson a Purple Heart. And today, 97 years after his extraordinary acts of courage and selflessness, I’m proud to award him the Medal of Honor.
We are honored to be joined today by some very special guests –- veterans of Henry’s regiment, the 369th. Thank you, to each of you, for your service. And I would ask Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson of the New York National Guard to come forward and accept this medal on Private Johnson’s behalf. (Applause.)
MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America authorized buy Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Private Henry Johnson, United States Army. Private Henry Johnson distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a member of Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, on May 15, 1918, during combat operations against the enemy on the front lines of the Western Front in France.
In the early morning hours, Private Johnson and another soldier were on sentry duty at a forward outpost when they received a surprise attack from the German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers. While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Private Johnson mounted a brave retaliation, resulting in several enemy casualties. When his fellow soldier was badly wounded and being carried away by the enemy, Private Johnson exposed himself to great danger by advancing from his position to engage the two enemy captors in hand-to-hand combat. Wielding only a knife and gravely wounded himself, Private Johnson continued fighting, defeating the two captors and rescuing the wounded soldier. Displaying great courage, he continued to hold back the larger enemy force until the defeated enemy retreated, leaving behind a large cache of weapons and equipment and providing valuable intelligence.
Without Private Johnson’s quick actions and continued fighting, even in the face of almost certain death, the enemy might have succeeded in capturing prisoners in the outpost and abandoning valuable intelligence. Private Johnson’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
(The Medal of Honor is presented.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey, William Shemin loved sports — football, wrestling, boxing, swimming. If it required physical and mental toughness, and it made your heart pump, your muscles ache, he was all in. As a teenager, he even played semi-pro baseball. So when America entered the war, and posters asked if he was tough enough, there was no question about it — he was going to serve. Too young to enlist? No problem. He puffed his chest and lied about his age. (Laughter.) And that’s how William Shemin joined the 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, and shipped out for France.
On August 7th, 1918, on the Western Front, the Allies were hunkered down in one trench, the Germans in another, separated by about 150 yards of open space — just a football field and a half. But that open space was a bloodbath. Soldier after soldier ventured out, and soldier after soldier was mowed down. So those still in the trenches were left with a terrible choice: die trying to rescue your fellow soldier, or watch him die, knowing that part of you will die along with him.
William Shemin couldn’t stand to watch. He ran out into the hell of No Man’s Land and dragged a wounded comrade to safety. Then he did it again, and again. Three times he raced through heavy machine gunfire. Three times he carried his fellow soldiers to safety.
The battle stretched on for days. Eventually, the platoon’s leadership broke down. Too many officers had become casualties. So William stepped up and took command. He reorganized the depleted squads. Every time there was a lull in combat, he led rescues of the wounded. As a lieutenant later described it, William was “cool, calm, intelligent, and personally utterly fearless.” That young kid who lied about his age grew up fast in war. And he received accolades for his valor, including the Distinguished Service Cross.
When he came home, William went to school for forestry and began a nursery business in the Bronx. It was hard work, lots of physical labor — just like he liked it. He married a red-head, blue-eyed woman named Bertha Schiffer, and they had three children who gave them 14 grandchildren. He bought a house upstate, where the grandkids spent their summers swimming and riding horses. He taught them how to salute. He taught them the correct way to raise the flag every morning and lower and fold it every night. He taught them how to be Americans.
William stayed in touch with his fellow veterans, too. And when World War II came, William went and talked to the Army about signing up again. By then, his war injuries had given him a terrible limp. But he treated that limp just like he treated his age all those years ago — pay no attention to that, he said. He knew how to build roads, he knew camouflage — maybe there was a place for him in this war, too. To Bertha’s great relief, the Army said that the best thing William could do for his country was to keep running his business and take care of his family. (Laughter.)
His daughter, Elsie — who’s here today with what seems like a platoon of Shemins — (laughter) — has a theory about what drove her father to serve. He was the son of Russian immigrants, and he was devoted to his Jewish faith. “His family lived through the pogroms,” she says. “They saw towns destroyed and children killed. And then they came to America. And here they found a haven — a home — success — and my father and his sister both went to college. All that, in one generation! That’s what America meant to him. And that’s why he’d do anything for this country.”
Well, Elsie, as much as America meant to your father, he means even more to America. It takes our nation too long sometimes to say so — because Sergeant Shemin served at a time when the contributions and heroism of Jewish Americans in uniform were too often overlooked. But William Shemin saved American lives. He represented our nation with honor. And so it is my privilege, on behalf of the American people, to make this right and finally award the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin. I want to invite his daughters — Elsie and Ina — 86 and 83, and gorgeous — (laughter) — to accept this medal on their father’s behalf. (Applause.)
MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin, United States Army.
Sergeant William Shemin distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifleman with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy on the Vesle River, near Bazoches, France from August 7th to August 9th, 1918.
Sergeant Shemin upon three different occasions left cover and crossed an open space of 150 yards, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue wounded. After officers and seniors noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Sergeant Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire until wounded on August 9th.
Sergeant Shemin’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, and the United States Army.
(The Medal of Honor is presented.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it has taken a long time for Henry Johnson and William Shemin to receive the recognition they deserve. And there are surely others whose heroism is still unacknowledged and uncelebrated. So we have work to do, as a nation, to make sure that all of our heroes’ stories are told. And we’ll keep at it, no matter how long it takes. America is the country we are today because of people like Henry and William — Americans who signed up to serve, and rose to meet their responsibilities — and then went beyond. The least we can do is to say: We know who you are. We know what you did for us. We are forever grateful.
May God bless the fallen of all of our wars. May He watch over our veterans and their families and all those who serve today. May God bless the United States of America.
With that, I’d ask the Chaplain to return to the podium for a benediction.
(The benediction is given.)
THE PRESIDENT: With that, we conclude the formal ceremony. But I welcome everybody to join in a wonderful reception. And let’s give our Medal of Honor winners one big round of applause. (Applause.)
Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
11:48 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 2, 2015
Source: WH, 5-25-15
Arlington National Cemetery
11:32 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Thank you, Secretary Carter, for your leadership of our men and women in uniform. General Dempsey; Major General Buchanan; Mr. Patrick Hallinan, Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries; Chaplain Studniewski; members of our armed services, veterans, and, most of all, families and friends of our fallen — it is my deep honor to share this day with you again.
For 147 years, our nation has set aside this day to pay solemn tribute to patriots who gave their last full measure of devotion for this country that we love. And while the nature of war has changed over that time, the values that drive our brave men and women in uniform remain constant: Honor, courage, selflessness. Those values lived in the hearts of everyday heroes who risked everything for us in every American war — men and women who now rest forever in these quiet fields and across our land.
They lived in the patriots who sparked a revolution, and who saved our union. They lived in the young GIs who defeated tyranny in Europe and the Pacific. And this year, we mark a historic anniversary — 70 years since our victory in World War II. More than 16 million Americans left everything they knew to fight for our freedom. More than 400,000 gave their lives. And today I ask all the family and friends of our fallen World War II heroes — spouses, children, brothers and sisters, and fellow veterans of World War II — to please stand if you can, or raise your hand, so that our country can thank you once more. (Applause.)
These same values lived in those who braved the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of the Middle East. And in the past decade, we’ve seen these values on display again in the men and women of our 9/11 Generation.
For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful; it is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end. Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war. So on this day, we honor the sacrifice of the thousands of American servicemembers — men and women — who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.
As an Arizona kid, Wyatt Martin loved the outdoors. He started fishing when he was two years old. His dad says he was pretty good for a toddler. Wyatt grew to 6-foot-4, became a hunter and wore flannel shirts every day — so his friends nicknamed him Paul Bunyan. He planned to go to college and work in the Arizona Game and Fish Department so that he could protect the land and waters he loved so much.
Wyatt’s life was animated by the belief that the blessings that he and his family enjoyed as Americans came with an obligation to give back, an obligation to serve. So before he pursued his dream of being a good steward of the great outdoors, he enlisted in the Army. And when he deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer, there was no doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing. Last summer, Wyatt told his sister, “If something happens to me, know that I went happy.”
Ramon Morris was born in Jamaica. He moved to Queens as a teenager. Like so many proud immigrants, he was called –compelled — to serve his new country. He, too, enlisted in the Army, and he even recruited his older brother Marlon to join, as well. He served five tours, including several in Iraq. Along the way, he fell in love with an Army Reservist named Christina. And they had a little girl, and named her Ariana. Ramon was the kind of leader who would do anything for his men, on and off the battlefield. But nothing was more important to him than being a great father to his little girl.
Specialist Wyatt Martin and Sergeant First Class Ramon Morris were 15 years apart in age. They traveled greatly different paths in life. But those paths took them to the same unit. Those paths made them brothers-in-arms, serving together in Afghanistan. In December, an IED struck their vehicle. They were the last two Americans to give their lives during our combat mission in Afghanistan. Today, here in Arlington, in Section 60, Ramon lies in eternal rest. And we are honored to be joined by his brother, Sergeant First Class Marlon Laidley, who is deploying for Germany tonight. Thank you, Marlon. Thank you to your family. (Applause.)
These two men, these two heroes, if you saw them passing on the street, you wouldn’t have known they were brothers. But under this flag, in common cause, they were bonded together to secure our liberty, to keep us safe.
My fellow Americans, this hallowed ground is more than the final resting place of heroes; it is a reflection of America itself. It’s a reflection of our history — the wars we’ve waged for democracy, the peace we’ve laid to preserve it. It’s a reflection of our diversity — men and women of all backgrounds, all races and creeds and circumstances and faiths, willing to defend and die for the ideals that bind us as one nation. It’s a reflection of our character, seen not only in those who are buried here, but also in the caretakers who watch over them and preserve this sacred place; and in the Sentinels of the 3rd Infantry Regiment who dutifully, unfailingly watch over those patriots known only to God, but never forgotten. Today, a grateful nation thanks them as well.
Most Americans don’t fully see, don’t fully understand the sacrifice made by the one percent who serve in this all-volunteer armed forces -– a sacrifice that preserves the freedoms we too often take for granted. Few know what it’s like to take a bullet for a buddy, or to live with the fact that he or she took one for you. But our Gold Star families, our military families, our veterans — they know this, intimately.
Whenever I meet with our Gold Star families, like I did this morning, I hear their pride through their tears, as they flip through old photos and run their fingers over shiny medals. I see that their hearts are still broken, and yet still full of love. They do not ask for awards or honors. They do not ask for special treatment. They are unfailingly humble. In the face of unspeakable loss, they represent the best of who we are.
They’re people like Ramon’s mother, who could carry hate for the people who killed her son — but she says, “I have no anger, no bitterness, even for the person who did this. I feel sorry for them, and I ask God to change their hearts.” That’s one Gold Star mother’s amazing grace.
Folks like Wyatt’s parents, Brian and Julie Martin, who said of their son, “He’s not just our kid, he’s everybody’s. He’s an American soldier. And as an American soldier, he belongs to everybody.”
They are siblings, like the Gold Star sister who wrote to me of her brother, Private First Class Stephen Benish, who gave his life in Iraq in 2004: She said, “Remember him not as the 1,253rd war casualty, but the 6-foot-7 burst of light and positive influence he was on the world.”
These sons and daughters, these brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for us — they belong to us all. They’re our children, too. We benefit from their light, their positive influence on the world. And it’s our duty, our eternal obligation, to be there for them, too; to make sure our troops always have what they need to carry out the mission; to make sure we care for all those who have served; to make sure we honor all those whom we’ve lost; to make sure we keep faith with our military families; to make sure we never stop searching for those who are missing, or trying to bring home our prisoners of war. And we are grateful for the families of our POW/MIAs.
This may be the first Memorial Day since the end of our war in Afghanistan. But we are acutely aware, as we speak, our men and women in uniform still stand watch and still serve, and still sacrifice around the world.
Several years ago, we had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 10,000 troops remain on a mission to train and assist Afghan forces. We’ll continue to bring them home and reduce our forces further, down to an embassy presence by the end of next year. But Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place. And as so many families know, our troops continue to risk their lives for us.
Growing up in Massachusetts, John Dawson was an honor student who played varsity soccer. He loved the Bruins, loved the Pats, and was always up for fun — running into a room while spraying silly string, or photobombing long before it was in style.
And John was passionate about service. He shared the same convictions of so many we honor today, who wanted nothing more than to join a common cause and be part of something bigger than himself. He channeled his love of cycling into charity bike rides with his church. He joined the Army. And as a combat medic, he fulfilled his dream of helping people. He loved his job.
In April, an attacker wearing an Afghan uniform fired at a group of American soldiers. And Army Corporal John Dawson became the first American servicemember to give his life to this new mission to train Afghan forces. The words on John’s dog tag were those of Scripture: “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”
The Americans who rest beneath these beautiful hills, and in sacred ground across our country and around the world, they are why our nation endures. Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings. It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay. By remaining a nation worthy of their sacrifice. By living our own lives the way the fallen lived theirs — a testament that “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”
We are so grateful for them. We are so grateful for the families of our fallen. May God bless our fallen heroes and their families, and all who serve. And may He continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
11:47 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 25, 2015
Source: WH, 5-22-15
Adas Israel Congregation
10:57 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, good morning, everybody!
AUDIENCE: Good morning!
THE PRESIDENT: A slightly early Shabbat Shalom. (Laughter.) I want to thank Rabbi Steinlauf for the very kind introduction. And to all the members of the congregation, thank you so much for such an extraordinary and warm welcome.
I want to thank a couple of outstanding members of Congress who are here. Senator Michael Bennet — where did Michael Bennet go? There he is. (Applause.) And Representative Sandy Levin, who is here. (Applause.) I want to thank our special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, for his important work. There he is. (Applause) But as I said, most of all I want to thank the entire congregation of Adas Israel for having me here today.
Earlier this week, I was actually interviewed by one of your members, Jeff Goldberg. (Applause.) And Jeff reminded me that he once called me “the first Jewish President.” (Laughter.) Now, since some people still seem to be wondering about my faith — (laughter) — I should make clear this was an honorary title. (Laughter.) But I was flattered.
And as an honorary member of the tribe, not to mention somebody who’s hosted seven White House Seders and been advised by — (applause) — and been advised by two Jewish chiefs of staff, I can also proudly say that I’m getting a little bit of the hang of the lingo. (Laughter.) But I will not use any of the Yiddish-isms that Rahm Emanuel taught me because — (laughter) — I want to be invited back. (Laughter.) Let’s just say he had some creative new synonyms for “Shalom.” (Laughter.)
Now, I wanted to come here to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month because this congregation, like so many around the country, helps us to tell the American story. And back in 1876, when President Grant helped dedicate Adas Israel, he became the first sitting President in history to attend a synagogue service. And at the time, it was an extraordinarily symbolic gesture — not just for America, but for the world.
And think about the landscape of Jewish history. Tomorrow night, the holiday of Shavuot marks the moment that Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai, the first link in a chain of tradition that stretches back thousands of years, and a foundation stone for our civilization. Yet for most of those years, Jews were persecuted — not embraced — by those in power. Many of your ancestors came here fleeing that persecution.
The United States could have been merely another destination in that ongoing diaspora. But those who came here found that America was more than just a country. America was an idea. America stood for something. As George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island: The United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
It’s important for us to acknowledge that too often in our history we fell short of those lofty ideals — in the legal subjugation of African Americans, through slavery and Jim Crow; the treatment of Native Americans. And far too often, American Jews faced the scourge of anti-Semitism here at home. But our founding documents gave us a North Star, our Bill of Rights; our system of government gave us a capacity for change. And where other nations actively and legally might persecute or discriminate against those of different faiths, this nation was called upon to see all of us as equal before the eyes of the law. When other countries treated their own citizens as “wretched refuse,” we lifted up our lamp beside the golden door and welcomed them in. Our country is immeasurably stronger because we did. (Applause.)
From Einstein to Brandeis, from Jonas Salk to Betty Friedan, American Jews have made contributions to this country that have shaped it in every aspect. And as a community, American Jews have helped make our union more perfect. The story of Exodus inspired oppressed people around the world in their own struggles for civil rights. From the founding members of the NAACP to a freedom summer in Mississippi, from women’s rights to gay rights to workers’ rights, Jews took the heart of Biblical edict that we must not oppress a stranger, having been strangers once ourselves.
Earlier this year, when we marked the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma, we remembered the iconic images of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. King, praying with his feet. To some, it must have seemed strange that a rabbi from Warsaw would take such great risks to stand with a Baptist preacher from Atlanta. But Heschel explained that their cause was one and the same. In his essay, “No Religion is an Island,” he wrote, “We must choose between interfaith and inter-nihilism.” Between a shared hope that says together we can shape a brighter future, or a shared cynicism that says our world is simply beyond repair.
So the heritage we celebrate this month is a testament to the power of hope. Me standing here before you, all of you in this incredible congregation is a testament to the power of hope. (Applause.) It’s a rebuke to cynicism. It’s a rebuke to nihilism. And it inspires us to have faith that our future, like our past, will be shaped by the values that we share. At home, those values compel us to work to keep alive the American Dream of opportunity for all. It means that we care about issues that affect all children, not just our own; that we’re prepared to invest in early childhood education; that we are concerned about making college affordable; that we want to create communities where if you’re willing to work hard, you can get ahead the way so many who fled and arrived on these shores were able to get ahead. Around the world, those values compel us to redouble our efforts to protect our planet and to protect the human rights of all who share this planet.
It’s particularly important to remember now, given the tumult that is taking place in so many corners of the globe, in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods, those shared values compel us to reaffirm that our enduring friendship with the people of Israel and our unbreakable bonds with the state of Israel — that those bonds, that friendship cannot be broken. (Applause.) Those values compel us to say that our commitment to Israel’s security — and my commitment to Israel’s security — is and always will be unshakeable. (Applause.)
And I’ve said this before: It would be a moral failing on the part of the U.S. government and the American people, it would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly not just on behalf of Israel’s right to exist, but its right to thrive and prosper. (Applause.) Because it would ignore the history that brought the state of Israel about. It would ignore the struggle that’s taken place through millennia to try to affirm the kinds of values that say everybody has a place, everybody has rights, everybody is a child of God. (Applause.)
As many of you know, I’ve visited the houses hit by rocket fire in Sderot. I’ve been to Yad Vashem and made that solemn vow: “Never forget. Never again.” When someone threatens Israel’s citizens or its very right to exist, Israelis necessarily that seriously. And so do I. Today, the military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries is stronger than ever. Our support of the Iron Dome’s rocket system has saved Israeli lives. And I can say that no U.S. President, no administration has done more to ensure that Israel can protect itself than this one. (Applause.)
As part of that commitment, there’s something else that the United States and Israel agrees on: Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon. (Applause.) Now, there’s a debate about how to achieve that — and that’s a healthy debate. I’m not going to use my remaining time to go too deep into policy — although for those of you who are interested — (laughter) — we have a lot of material out there. (Laughter.) But I do want everybody to just remember a few key things.
The deal that we already reached with Iran has already halted or rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program. Now we’re seeking a comprehensive solution. I will not accept a bad deal. As I pointed out in my most recent article with Jeff Goldberg, this deal will have my name on it, so nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise. (Applause.) I want a good deal.
I’m interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon — every single path. A deal that imposes unprecedented inspections on all elements of Iran’s nuclear program, so that they can’t cheat; and if they try to cheat, we will immediately know about it and sanctions snap back on. A deal that endures beyond a decade; that addresses this challenge for the long term. In other words, a deal that makes the world and the region — including Israel — more secure. That’s how I define a good deal.
I can’t stand here today and guarantee an agreement will be reached. We’re hopeful. We’re working hard. But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. And I’ve made clear that when it comes to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, all options are and will remain on the table.
Moreover, even if we do get a good deal, there remains the broader issue of Iran’s support for terrorism and regional destabilization, and ugly threats against Israel. And that’s why our strategic partnership with Israel will remain, no matter what happens in the days and years ahead. And that’s why the people of Israel must always know America has its back, and America will always have its back. (Applause.)
Now, that does not mean that there will not be, or should not be, periodic disagreements between our two governments. There will be disagreements on tactics when it comes to how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is entirely appropriate and should be fully aired. Because the stakes are sufficiently high that anything that’s proposed has to be subjected to scrutiny — and I welcome that scrutiny.
But there are also going to be some disagreements rooted in shared history that go beyond tactics, that are rooted in how we might remain true to our shared values. I came to know Israel as a young man through these incredible images of kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and Israel overcoming incredible odds in the ’67 war. The notion of pioneers who set out not only to safeguard a nation, but to remake the world. Not only to make the desert bloom, but to allow their values to flourish; to ensure that the best of Judaism would thrive. And those values in many ways came to be my own values. They believed the story of their people gave them a unique perspective among the nations of the world, a unique moral authority and responsibility that comes from having once been a stranger yourself.
And to a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world — that idea was liberating. The example of Israel and its values was inspiring.
So when I hear some people say that disagreements over policy belie a general lack of support of Israel, I must object, and I object forcefully. (Applause.) For us to paper over difficult questions, particularly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about settlement policy, that’s not a true measure of friendship.
Before I came out here, the Rabbi showed me the room that’s been built to promote scholarship and dialogue, and to be able to find how we make our shared values live. And the reason you have that room is because applying those values to our lives is often hard, and it involves difficult choices. That’s why we study. That’s why it’s not just a formula. And that’s what we have to do as nations as well as individuals. We have to grapple and struggle with how do we apply the values that we care about to this very challenging and dangerous world.
And it is precisely because I care so deeply about the state of Israel — it’s precisely because, yes, I have high expectations for Israel the same way I have high expectations for the United States of America — that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland. (Applause.) And I believe that’s two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. (Applause.) Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well. (Applause.)
Now, I want to emphasize — that’s not easy. The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners. (Laughter.) The neighborhood is dangerous. And we cannot expect Israel to take existential risks with their security so that any deal that takes place has to take into account the genuine dangers of terrorism and hostility.
But it is worthwhile for us to keep up the prospect, the possibility of bridging divides and being just, and looking squarely at what’s possible but also necessary in order for Israel to be the type of nation that it was intended to be in its earliest founding. (Applause.)
And that same sense of shared values also compel me to speak out — compel all of us to speak out — against the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists. (Applause.) I want to be clear that, to me, all these things are connected. The rights I insist upon and now fight for, for all people here in the United States compels me then to stand up for Israel and look out for the rights of the Jewish people. And the rights of the Jewish people then compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity. That’s what Jewish values teach me. That’s what the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches me. These things are connected. (Applause.)
And in recent years, we’ve seen a deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in parts of the world where it would have seemed unthinkable just a few years or decades ago. This is not some passing fad; these aren’t just isolated phenomenon. And we know from our history they cannot be ignored. Anti-Semitism is, and always will be, a threat to broader human values to which we all must aspire. And when we allow anti-Semitism to take root, then our souls are destroyed, and it will spread.
And that’s why, tonight, for the first time ever, congregations around the world are celebrating a Solidarity Shabbat. It’s a chance for leaders to publicly stand against anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms. And I’m proud to be a part of this movement, and I’m proud that six ambassadors from Europe are joining us today. And their presence here — our presence together — is a reminder that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. (Applause.) Our traditions, our history, can help us chart a better course as long as we are mindful of that history and those traditions, and we are vigilant in speaking out and standing up against what is wrong. It’s not always easy, I think, to speak out against what is wrong, even for good people.
So I want to close with the story of one more of the many rabbis who came to Selma 50 years ago. A few days after David Teitelbaum arrived to join the protests, he and a colleague were thrown in jail. And they spent a Friday night in custody, singing Adon Olam to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.” And that in and of itself is a profound statement of faith and hope. But what’s wonderful is, is that out of respect many of their fellow protestors began wearing what they called “freedom caps” — (laughter) — yarmulkes — as they marched.
And the day after they were released from prison, Rabbi Teitelbaum watched Dr. King lead a prayer meeting before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And Dr. King said, “We are like the children of Israel, marching from slavery to freedom.”
That’s what happens when we’re true to our values. It’s not just good for us, but it brings the community together. (Applause.) Tikkun Olam — it brings the community together and it helps repair the world. It bridges differences that once looked unbridgeable. It creates a future for our children that once seemed unattainable. This congregation — Jewish American life is a testimony to the capacity to make our values live. But it requires courage. It requires strength. It requires that we speak the truth not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.
So may we always remember that our shared heritage makes us stronger, that our roots are intertwined. May we always choose faith over nihilism, and courage over despair, and hope over cynicism and fear. As we walk our own leg of a timeless, sacred march, may we always stand together, here at home and around the world.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
11:26 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 22, 2015
The White House released the financial disclosures for President Barack Obama and Vice president Joe Biden on Friday, May 15, 2015, indicating that the president has a net worth of between $2 and $7 million, whereas the Vice President is worth between $275,000 to $1.1 million. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires disclosures each year, but only indicates broad ranges not exact amounts.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 16, 2015
Source: WH, 5-8-15
9:44 A.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Oregon! (Applause.) Well, who arranged this day? (Applause.) Every time I come to Oregon this is what it looks like. (Laughter.) Yeah! It never rains in Oregon, does it?
THE PRESIDENT: Never.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Don’t come to California. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Well, listen, it is wonderful to see all of you. First of all, please give Mark another round of applause for his hospitality. (Applause.) And thanks to everyone at Nike for hosting us today, here in “Federer Platz.” (Laughter.) You know, the White House is cool. (Laughter.) We’ve got a basketball court — actually, it’s a tennis court that we repainted some lines — (laughter) — when I came into office. So it’s a combination basketball-tennis court. There is a putting green that President Eisenhower put in. Can you imagine, by the way, if I had put in a putting green? (Laughter.) Things have changed. (Laughter.)
But you’ve got all that and the 18th tee box from Pebble Beach. (Applause.) Come on. I’m sure some of my staff is running around right now in the Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm buildings — (laughter) — they want to be lab rats for your new gear. (Laughter.)
But it is wonderful to be here. Please give it up for two people who fight every single day for Oregon workers — your Representatives in Congress — they do a great job — Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici. They are both here. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) Yay! And there are two people who couldn’t make it here today, but they’re doing a great job and you should give them a round of applause as well, and that’s Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Kurt Schrader. (Applause.)
So it is great to be at the world headquarters of such an iconic company — a company that helps athletes succeed from the individual to the world stage. And as you’ve heard, I’ve come to Oregon to talk a little bit about trade — which initially may have had some people thinking, what, is Mariota going someplace that we didn’t know about? (Laughter.) He’s going to be great. He’s an outstanding young man. He’s going to be terrific — and from Hawaii, by the way. (Applause.) Local boy.
But this is important, and I want to tell you why I think trade deals and our willingness to go out there and compete on the global stage is so important.
Before I came out here, I had a chance to meet with some small business owners from across Oregon, whose workers make everything from bikes to tea to stationery to wine. And they know how important this is to them. Sometimes when we talk about trade, we think of Nike, or we think of Boeing, or we think of G.E. — we think about these big multinational companies. But those small business leaders came here today because they understood that these markets outside the United States will help them grow, and will help them hire more folks — just as all the suppliers to Nike or Boeing or G.E. or any of these other companies understand this is going to be critical to their growth and their ability to create new jobs.
In fact, that’s why Ron Wyden is not here — because he’s in Washington, D.C. as we speak quarterbacking this effort on behalf of Oregon’s small business owners and workers.
Now, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Eventually, like Nike, they grow sometimes into really, really big companies. They employ millions of people; 98 percent of exporters are small businesses. They’re the ones who make Made in Oregon and Made in the USA mean something. And they represent something essential about this country — the notion that if you’ve got a good idea and you’re willing to work at it, you can turn that idea into a business, you can growth that business, and eventually, who knows what might happen. You can give other people a chance to earn a living even as you do well. That’s America’s promise. And it’s up to us to keep that promise alive.
Now, that promise was threatened for almost everybody just about seven years ago, when the economy nearly collapsed, and millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes and their life savings. But thanks to the hard work of the American people and entrepreneurs like the ones who are here today — and some pretty good policies from my administration — (laughter) — we’re in a different place today. (Applause.) We’re in a different place today.
This morning, we learned that our economy created 223,000 new jobs last month. (Applause.) The unemployment rate ticked down again to 5.4 percent — which is the lowest it’s been in almost seven years. (Applause.) That’s 3 million new jobs over the past 12 months — nearly the fastest pace in over a decade. And all told, over the past 62 months in a row, America’s businesses have created 12.3 million new jobs.
I should add, by the way, 62 months ago is when I signed the Affordable Care Act. So, obviously, it hasn’t done too bad in terms of employment in this country. (Applause.) I just thought I’d mention that. (Applause.) Since there were a lot of predictions of doom and gloom, I would just suggest those who were making those predictions go back and check the statistics. (Laughter.) Just saying. (Laughter.)
So small businesses deserve a lot of credit for that. In fact, over the past several years, small businesses have created nearly two out of every three new American jobs. And the question is, how do we build on that success? We’ve got to be relentless in our efforts to support small businesses who are creating jobs and helping to grow the economy.
And that’s been the purpose behind many of the policies I’ve fought for as President. I’ve cut taxes for small businesses more than a dozen times. I’ve pushed for investments in infrastructure and faster Internet. It’s why we’ve made health care more accessible, affordable, portable — to give people the freedom to change jobs or launch that startup without worrying about losing their health insurance.
And passing trade agreements is part of that agenda if those trade agreements are the right kinds of trade agreements; if they make sure that they’re growing our businesses, and helping American workers by selling goods Made in America across the rest of the world.
And I’ve been talking a lot about this lately, because I view smart trade agreements as a vital piece of middle-class economics. Not a contradiction to middle-class economics, it’s a part and parcel of it.
I believe that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules. And that means making sure everybody has got a good education. It means making sure that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work. (Applause.) It means making sure that folks have to have sick leave and family leave and that they can balance work and family in a fair way. It means, working to increase the minimum wage all across this country — because folks who have some of the toughest jobs oftentimes get the lowest pay.
That’s all part of middle-class economics, but, you know what, so is trade. We strive to make sure our own economy lives up to high standards, but in a lot of parts of the world, the rules are unfair. The playing field is uneven. That puts American businesses and American workers at a disadvantage. So the question is, what should we do about it?
Some folks think we should just withdraw and not even try to engage in trade with these countries. I disagree. We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy. And we should do it today, while our economy is in the position of global strength. (Applause.) Because if we don’t write the rules for trade around the world — guess what — China will. And they’ll write those rules in a way that gives Chinese workers and Chinese businesses the upper hand, and locks American-made goods out.
That’s the choice we face. We’re not going to be able to isolate ourselves from world markets. We got to be in there and compete. And the question is, are we going to make sure that the rules are fair so that our businesses and our workers are on a level playing field. Because when they are, we win every time. When the rules are fair, we win every time. (Applause.)
So this is why I’m such a strong supporter of new trade agreements. They’re going to help our workers compete and our businesses compete. This is not a left issue or a right issue, or a business or a labor issue. It is about fairness and equity and access. And like other issues that we’ve waged slow, steady fights on over the last seven years, this is also a question of the past versus the future.
So the Trans-Pacific Partnership that we’re working on, it’s the biggest trade deal that we’re working on right now — has to do with the Asia Pacific region. And it reflects our values in ways that, frankly, some previous trade agreements did not. It’s the highest-standard, most progressive trade deal in history. It’s got strong, enforceable provisions for workers, preventing things like child labor. It’s got strong, enforceable provisions on the environment, helping us to do things that haven’t been done before, to prevent wildlife trafficking, or deforestation, or dealing with our oceans. And these are enforceable in the agreement.
And Nike operates in the Pacific region, so they understand the competitive pressures they’re under. Nike has factories all around the world. And let’s face it, Mark I think doesn’t mind me saying it that some of these countries, they don’t have the standards for wages and labor conditions that we have here.
So when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually, for the first time, have to raise its labor standards. It would have to set a minimum wage. It would have to pass safe workplace laws to protect its workers. It would even have to protect workers’ freedom to form unions — for the very first time. That would make a difference. That helps to level the playing field — (applause) — and it would be good for the workers in Vietnam, even as it helps make sure that they’re not undercutting competition here in the United States.
So that’s progress. It doesn’t mean that suddenly working conditions in Vietnam will be like they are here at Nike. (Laughter.) Or here in Portland right away. But it moves us in the right direction.
And if Vietnam, or any of the other countries in this trade agreement don’t meet these requirements, they’ll face meaningful consequences. If you’re a country that wants in to this agreement, you have to meet higher standards. If you don’t, you’re out. If you break the rules, there are actual repercussions. And that’s good for American businesses and American workers, because we already meet higher standards than most of the rest of the world, and that helps level the playing field.
And this deal would strengthen our hand overseas by giving us the tools to open other markets to our goods and services and make sure they play by the fair rules we help write. The truth is, we have one of the most open markets in the world. Folks are already selling stuff here. We got to be able to sell there. That requires us to enter into trade agreements to open up their markets.
I hear Oregon wine is actually pretty good. (Applause.) Somebody told me that the pinot noir in Oregon is top-notch, right? I’ve got some winemakers right here. (Applause.) Well, I want to make sure Japanese wine consumers have the opportunity to partake — (laughter) — in our excellent Oregon wine.
We got some Oregon beef producers and ranchers around here. (Applause.) Beef is really expensive in Japan. Let’s make sure they try some Oregon steaks. (Applause.) It’s good stuff.
And that’s one of the best things that can happen for our businesses and our workers — opening up markets that have previously been closed, particularly markets where they’re already selling stuff here. There’s a lack of reciprocity. It’s not a fair deal right now. We want to make it fair.
Now, I want to acknowledge — because this looks like a very well-read and informed crowd — (laughter) — that there have been a bunch of critics about trade deals generally and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And what’s interesting is typically they’re my friends, coming from my party, and they’re my fellow travelers on minimum wage and on job training and on clean energy. On every progressive issue, they’re right there with me. And then on this one, they’re like whooping on me. (Laughter.)
But I tell you what. I’ve run my last election, and the only reason I do something is because I think it’s good for American workers and the American people and the American economy. (Applause.) I don’t have any other rationale for doing what I do than I think it’s the best thing for the American people. And on this issue, on trade, I actually think some of my dearest friends are wrong. They’re just wrong. And here’s why.
First of all, they say that this trade agreement will cost American jobs. And they’re really basing this on some past experience, looking at what happened in the ‘90s, over the last 20 years, as there was a lot of outsourcing going on. And you know what, past trade agreements, it’s true, didn’t always reflect our values or didn’t always do enough to protect American workers. But that’s why we’re designing a different kind of trade deal
And the truth is that companies that only care about low wages, they’ve already moved. They don’t need new trade deals to move. They’ve already outsourced. They’ve already located in search of low wages.
What this trade agreement would do is open the doors to the higher-skill, higher-wage jobs of the future — jobs that we excel at. It would make sure our manufacturers who are operating at the higher end of the value chain are able to access these growing markets. And the fact is, over the past few years, our manufacturers have been steadily creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s — under my administration. After more than a decade away from the top spot, business leaders around the world have declared the United States is the world’s number one place to invest for a third year in a row. (Applause.) Third year in a row.
So the point is, outsourcing is already giving way to insourcing. Companies are starting to move back here to do more advanced manufacturing, and this is a trend we expect to continue. This trade deal would help that.
Just this morning, as Mark may have mentioned, Nike announced that, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it will make new investments in advanced manufacturing — not overseas, but right here in the United States. And far more Nike products would be made in the U.S.A. (Applause.) And that means thousands of new jobs in manufacturing and engineering and design at Nike facilities across the country, and potentially tens of thousands of new jobs along Nike’s supply chain here at home. That’s what trade can do. (Applause.)
Look, I’ve spent six and a half years trying to rescue this economy — six and a half years of trying to revitalize American manufacturing, including rescuing an American auto industry that was on its back and is now fully recovered. So I would not risk any of that if I thought the trade deals were going to undermine it. The reason I’m for this is because I think it will enhance it and advance it. So that’s point number one.
Point number two — when you ask folks specifically, what do you oppose about this trade deal, they just say “NAFTA.” NAFTA was passed 20 years ago. That was a different agreement. And in fact, this agreement fixes some of what was wrong with NAFTA by making labor and environmental provisions actually enforceable. (Applause.) I was just getting out of law school when NAFTA got passed. (Laughter.)
Number three — you’ve got some critics saying that any deal would be rushed through; it’s a secret deal, people don’t know what’s in it. This is not true. Any agreement that we finalize with the other 11 countries will have to be posted online for at least 60 days before I even sign it. Then it would go to Congress — and you know they’re not going to do anything fast. (Laughter.) So there will be months of review. Every T crossed, every I dotted. Everybody is going to be able to see exactly what’s in it.
There’s nothing fast-track about this. This is a very deliberate track — (laughter) — which will be fully subject to scrutiny. And I’m confident when people read the agreement for themselves, they’ll see that this is the most progressive trade deal in history.
Number four — critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation — food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They’re making this stuff up. (Applause.) This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws. This agreement would make sure our companies aren’t discriminated against in other countries.
We already treat companies from other countries fairly here. But our companies don’t always get treated fairly there. So sometimes they need to have some way to settle disputes where it’s not subject to the whims of some government bureaucrat in that country. That’s important. We want our businesses to succeed in selling over there because that’s how our workers will get more jobs here in the United States.
And then finally, some critics talk about currency manipulation. Now, this has been a problem in the past. Some countries, they try to lower their currency so that it makes their goods cheaper, makes our more expensive. There was a time when China was pretty egregious about this. When I came into office, I started pounding on them. Every time I meet with them, I’d be talking about currency. And we pushed back hard, and China moved. In real terms, their currency has appreciated about 30 percent since I came into office. And we’re going to keep on going after it. But that’s not an argument against this trade agreement. If we give up the chance to help our businesses sell their stuff in the world’s fastest-growing markets, that doesn’t do anything to stop currency manipulation.
So the fact is, some folks are just opposed to trade deals out of principle, a reflexive principle. And what I tell them is, you know what, if you’re opposed to these smart, progressive trade deals, then that means you must be satisfied with the status quo. And the status quo hasn’t been working for our workers. It hasn’t been working for our businesses. And there are people here who will tell you why.
I’m going to just give you a couple of examples of small businesses who I had a chance to meet with today. Egg Press is a Portland-based greeting card company. (Applause.) Really nice. They sell their cards in Australia, which is a member of this Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Their CEO, Tess Darrow — where’s Tess? Raise your hand. I saw her. There she is. (Applause.) So Tess says that if they could more easily reach customers in Japan, as well, they’d sell half the volume that they do here in America. That’s a lot.
Right now, the logistics of exporting to Japan are too complicated. Products end up being held up for months at the border. This agreement would help solve some of those problems so Tess can sell more greeting cards in Japan — presumably in Japanese. (Laughter.) Is there going to be — there will be a translation process, I assume. Yes, absolutely. I’m teasing. (Laughter.)
So the trade deal would help eliminate barriers, and simplify customs, and hold countries accountable for getting products delivered swiftly. The more Tess sells, the more she can grow, the more she can hire here in Oregon, here in the United States.
Oregon Fruit Products — makes canned fruits, berries, other products — depends on exports for 20 percent of its annual sales. Right now, it exports to four members of this partnership that we’re putting together: Japan, Australia, Singapore, and Canada. Unfortunately, selling in these countries right now can mean dealing with unfair rules designed to prevent our products from being offered in their markets. Under this agreement, that would change. Exporting becomes simpler, more consistent. That means more people around the world eating Oregon berries all year long. Berry tasty. (Applause.)
Sokol Blosser Winery — (applause) — we got a lot of drinkers here. (Laughter.) It’s a winery, family-run in Dayton, Oregon. One of its top export markets is Japan. Right now, there are high tariffs on American wine in that country. Under this trade partnership, those tariffs would be eliminated, and wineries across America could see their sales grow overseas. The brother–and-sister team that runs this vineyard — wave, guys — (applause) — they say, “If we can make it easier to do business with countries that are already our trading partners, countries that are allies, that’s a good thing.”
They’re right. This deal would be a good thing. So let’s “just do it.” (Laughter and applause.) It took a while for you to catch that, didn’t it? (Laughter.) I thought that was pretty obvious. (Laughter.)
So, listen, I know a lot of folks who are skeptical about trade. Past trade deals didn’t always live up to the hype. Labor and environmental protections weren’t always strong enough. I saw for years, in Chicago and towns across Illinois, manufacturing collapsing, jobs drying up. Outsourcing is real. Folks didn’t just make that up. Some of our manufacturing base shifted over the last 25 years, and it wasn’t good for manufacturing and it wasn’t good for those communities, and it wasn’t good for workers. That’s the truth. It had benefits — other jobs were created, we got cheaper goods. But there was real displacement and real pain. And so, for many Americans, this is not an abstraction; this is real.
But we’ve got to learn the right lessons from that. The lesson is not that we pull up the drawbridge and build a moat around ourselves. The lesson is, is that we’ve got to make sure that the trade deals that we do shape are ones that allow us to compete fairly.
So when I took office, I decided we could rethink the way we do trade in a way that actually works for working Americans. I didn’t think this was the right thing to do just for companies. If I didn’t think this was the right thing to do for working families, I would not be fighting for it. If any agreement undercuts working families, I won’t sign it. I ran for office to expand opportunity for everybody — the all-American idea that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or how you started out, or who you love, in America you can make it if you try. (Applause.)
So, yes, we should be mindful of the past, but we can’t ignore the realities of the new economy. We can’t stand on the beaches and stop the global economy at our shores. We’ve got to harness it on our terms. This century is built for us. It’s about innovation. It’s about dynamism and flexibility and entrepreneurship, and information and knowledge and science and research. That’s us. So we can’t be afraid of it; we’ve got to seize it. We’ve got to give every single American who wakes up, sends their kids to school, rolls up their sleeves, punches in every day the chance to do what they do best: dream up, innovate, build, sell the best products and ideas in the world to every corner of the world. (Applause.)
Because, Nike, we do not just have the best athletes in the world. We also have the best workers in the world. (Applause.) We also have the best businesses in the world. And when the playing field is level, nobody beats the United States of America. (Applause.) Nobody beats the United States of America.
Just do it, everybody. Thank you. God bless you. Thank you, Oregon. Thank you. God bless America. (Applause.)
10:14 A.M. PDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 8, 2015
Source: WH, 4-28-15
With respect to Baltimore, let me make a couple of points. First, obviously our thoughts continue to be with the family of Freddie Gray. Understandably, they want answers. And DOJ has opened an investigation. It is working with local law enforcement to find out exactly what happened, and I think there should be full transparency and accountability.
Second, my thoughts are with the police officers who were injured in last night’s disturbances. It underscores that that’s a tough job and we have to keep that in mind, and my hope is that they can heal and get back to work as soon as possible.
Point number three, there’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement — they’re stealing. When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.
So it is entirely appropriate that the mayor of Baltimore, who I spoke to yesterday, and the governor, who I spoke to yesterday, work to stop that kind of senseless violence and destruction. That is not a protest. That is not a statement. It’s people — a handful of people taking advantage of a situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.
Point number four, the violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders. And they were constructive and they were thoughtful, and frankly, didn’t get that much attention. And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion.
The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore I think have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray, and that accountability needs to exist. And I think we have to give them credit. My understanding is, is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place. What they were doing, what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement. That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem. And they deserve credit for it, and we should be lifting them up.
Point number five — and I’ve got six, because this is important. Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals — primarily African American, often poor — in ways that have raised troubling questions. And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now, or once every couple of weeks. And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations but, more importantly, moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis. What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis. This has been going on for a long time. This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.
The good news is, is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond.
What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House have come up with very constructive concrete proposals that, if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference. It wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
Now, the challenge for us as the federal government is, is that we don’t run these police forces. I can’t federalize every police force in the country and force them to retrain. But what I can do is to start working with them collaboratively so that they can begin this process of change themselves.
And coming out of the task force that we put together, we’re now working with local communities. The Department of Justice has just announced a grant program for those jurisdictions that want to purchase body cameras. We are going to be issuing grants for those jurisdictions that are prepared to start trying to implement some of the new training and data collection and other things that can make a difference. And we’re going to keep on working with those local jurisdictions so that they can begin to make the changes that are necessary.
I think it’s going to be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organization to acknowledge that this is not good for police. We have to own up to the fact that occasionally there are going to be problems here, just as there are in every other occupation. There are some bad politicians who are corrupt. There are folks in the business community or on Wall Street who don’t do the right thing. Well, there’s some police who aren’t doing the right thing. And rather than close ranks, what we’ve seen is a number of thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners and others recognize they got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem. And we’re committed to facilitating that process.
So the heads of our COPS agency that helps with community policing, they’re already out in Baltimore. Our Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division is already out in Baltimore. But we’re going to be working systematically with every city and jurisdiction around the country to try to help them implement some solutions that we know work.
And I’ll make my final point — I’m sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but this is a pretty important issue for us.
We can’t just leave this to the police. I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching. But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades.
And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college. In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem. And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.
If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do — the rest of us — to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons; so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense; that we’re making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs. That’s hard. That requires more than just the occasional news report or task force. And there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that.
Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.
But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant — and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important. And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.
That’s how I feel. I think there are a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way. But that kind of political mobilization I think we haven’t seen in quite some time. And what I’ve tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference. But I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough because it’s easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law and order issue, as opposed to a broader social issue.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 28, 2015
Source: WaPo, 4-25-15
Good evening, everybody.
Welcome to the White House Correspondents’ dinner. A night when Washington celebrates itself. Somebody’s got to do it. And welcome to the fourth quarter of my presidency. It’s true — that’s Michelle cheering.
The fact is a feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder massages they’re like magic. You should try one. Oh, you have.
I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left. After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me “Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?” And I said, ‘Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.”
Take executive action on immigration. Bucket.
New climate regulations. Bucket. It’s the right thing to do.
My new attitude is paying off. Look at my Cuba policy. The Castro brothers are here tonight. Welcome to America, amigos. Que pasa? What? It’s the Castros from Texas. Oh. Hi, Joaquin. Hi, Julian.
Anyway, being president is never easy. I still have to fix a broken immigration system, issue veto threats, negotiate with Iran. All while finding time to pray five times a day. Which is strenuous.
And it is no wonder that that people keep pointing out how the presidency has aged me. I look so old John Boehner’s already invited Min Yo to speak at my funeral.
Meanwhile, Michelle hasn’t aged a day. I ask her what her secret is and she just says “fresh fruits and vegetables.” It’s aggravating.
Fact is though, at this point my legacy is finally beginning to take shape. The economy is getting better. Nine in ten Americans now have health coverage. Today thanks to Obamacare you no longer have to worry about losing your insurance if you lose your job. You’re welcome, senate democrats.
Look, it is true I have not managed to make everybody happy. Six years into my presidency some people still say I’m arrogant, aloof, condescending. Some people are so dumb. No wonder I don’t meet with them. And that’s not all people say about me. A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney says he thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime. Which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime. Quite a coincidence. I mean everybody’s got something to say these days.
Mike Huckabee recently said people shouldn’t join our military until a true conservative is elected president. Think about that. It was so outrageous 47 Ayatollah wrote us a letter trying to explain to Huckabee how our system works.
It gets worse. Just this week, Michele Bachmann actually predicted that I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now, that’s a legacy. That’s big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they didn’t do that.
You know, I just have to put this stuff aside. I have to stay focused on my job. Because for many Americans this is still a time of deep uncertainty. For example, I have one friend just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year and she’s now living out of a van in Iowa.
Meanwhile, back here in our nation’s capitol we’re always dealing with new challenges.
I’m happy to report that the Secret Service — thanks to some excellent reporting by white house correspondents — they are focusing on some of the issues that have come up. And, they have finally figured out a full proof way to keep people off my lawn. [image of John McCain] It works. It’s not just fence jumpers. Some of you know, a few months ago, a drone crashed landed out back. That was pretty serious, but don’t worry, we installed a new state-of-the-art security system.[image of Joe Biden] You know, let me set the record straight. I tease Joe Biden, but you know he has been in my side for seven years. I love that man. [applause] He’s not just a great Vice President, he is a great friend. We’ve gotten so close in some places in Indiana, they won’t serve us pizza anymore. [laughter] [applause]
I want to thank our host for the evening, a Chicago girl, the incredibly talented Cecily Strong. [applause] On Saturday Night Live, Cecily impersonates CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin, which is surprising, because usually the only people impersonating journalists on CNN are journalists on CNN. [laughter]
ABC is here with some of the stars from their big new comedy “black-ish.” It’s a great show, but I have to give ABC fair warning, being black-ish only makes you popular for so long. Trust me. There is a shelf life to that thing.
As always, the reporters here had a lot to cover over the last year here on the East Coast. One big story was the brutal winner. The polar vortex caused so many record lows, they renamed it MSNBC.
But, of course, let’s face it, one reporter on everybody’s minds, and that is 2016. Already, we’ve seen some missteps.
It turns out Jeb Bush identified himself as Hispanic back in 2009, which, you know what, I — look, I understand. It’s an innocent mistake. It reminds me of when I identified myself as American back in 1961.
Ted Cruz said that denying the existence of climate change made him like Galileo. Now that’s not really an apt comparison. Galileo believed the Earth revolves around the sun. Ted Cruz believes the Earth revolves around Ted Cruz.
And just as an aside, I want to point out, when a guy who has his face on a Hope poster calls you self-centered, you know you’ve got a problem. The narcissism index is creeping up a little too high.
Meanwhile, Rick Santorum announced that he would not attend the same-sex wedding of a friend or loved one, to which gays and lesbians across the country responded, that’s not going to be a problem. Don’t sweat that one. [LAUGHTER]
And Donald Trump is here. Still.
Anyway, it’s amazing how time flies. Soon, the first presidential contest will take place, and I for one cannot wait to see who the Koch brothers pick. It’s exciting.
Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, who will finally get that red rose?
The winner gets a billion dollar war chest. The runner-up gets to be the bachelor on the next season of “The Bachelor.”
I mean seriously, a billion dollars from just two guys. Is it just me, or does that feel a little excessive?
I mean, it’s almost insulting to the candidates. The Koch brothers think they think to spend a billion dollars to get folks to like one of these people. It’s got to hurt their feelings a little bit.
And I know I’ve raised a lot of money too, but in all fairness, my middle name is Hussein. What’s their excuse?
The trail hasn’t been easy for my fellow Democrats either. As we all know Hillary’s private e-mails got her in trouble. Frankly, I thought it was going to be her private Instagram account that was going to cause her bigger problems.
Hillary kicked things off by going completely unrecognized at a Chipotle. Not to be outdone, Martin O’Malley went completely unrecognized as a Martin O’Malley campaign event. And Bernie Sanders might run. I like Bernie. Bernie’s an interesting guy. Apparently, some folks want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.[LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] It could happen.
Anyway, as always, I want to close on a more serious note. You know, I often joke about tensions between me and the press, but honestly, what they say doesn’t bother me. I understand we’ve got an adversarial system. I’m a mellow sort of guy. And that’s why I invited Luther, my anger translator, to join me here tonight.
[APPLAUSE: Keegan-Michael Key joins on stage.]
LUTHER: Hold on to your lily white butts!
OBAMA: In our fast-changing world, traditions like the White House correspondents dinner are important.
LUTHER: I mean, really! What is this dinner? And why am I required to come to it?
Jeb Bush, do you really want to do this!
OBAMA: Because despite our differences, we count on the press to shed light on the most important issues of the day.
LUTHER: And we can count on FOX News to terrify old white people with some non-sense!
OBAMA: We won’t always see eye to eye.
LUTHER: And, CNN, thank you so much for the wall-to-wall Ebola coverage. For two full weeks, we were one step away from “The Walking Dead”. Then y’all got up and just moved on to the next thing. That was awesome.
Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t noticed, you don’t have Ebola!
OBAMA: But I still deeply appreciate the work that you do.
LUTHER: Y’all remember when I had that big old hole in the bottom of the gulf of Mexico, and then I plugged it? Remember that? Which Obama’s Katrina was that one? Was that 19 or was it 20, because I can’t remember.
OBAMA: Protecting our democracy is more important than ever. For example, the Supreme Court ruled that the donor who gave Ted Cruz $6 million was just exercising free speech.
LUTHER: Yes, it’s the kind of speech like this, I just wasted $6 million.
OBAMA: And it’s not just Republicans. Hillary will have to raise huge sums of money too.
LUTHER: Aw yeah, she’s going to get that money! She’s going to get all the money! Khaleesi is coming to Westeros! Watch out! Woo!
OBAMA: The non-stop focus on billionaire donors creates real problems for our democracy.
LUTHER: And that’s why we’re running for our third term!
OBAMA: No, we’re not.
LUTHER: We’re not?
LUTHER: Who the hell said that!
OBAMA: But we need to focus on big challenges like climate changes.
LUTHER: Hey, folks, if you haven’t noticed, California is bone dry. It looks like a trailer for the new “Mad Max” movie up in there. Y’all think that Bradley Cooper came here because he wants to talk to Chuck Todd? He needed a glass of water!
OBAMA: The science is clear, the science is clear. Nine out of the 10 hottest years ever came in the last decade.
LUTHER: Now I’m not a scientist, but I do know how to count to ten.
OBAMA: Rising seas, more violent storms.
LUTHER: You got mosquitoes, sweaty people on the trains stinking it up. It’s just nasty!
OBAMA: I mean, look at what’s happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it’s a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day and instead of doing anything about it, we’ve got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate.
LUTHER: OK, I think they got it.
OBAMA: It is crazy! What about our kids? What kind of stupid, short-sided irresponsible bull —
LUTHER: Whoa, whoa whoa, whoa!
LUTHER: All due respect, sir, you don’t need anger translator. You need counseling.
LUTHER: And I’m out of here, man. I ain’t trying to get into all this.
LUTHER: He crazy.
OBAMA: Luther, my anger translator, ladies and gentlemen.
Now that I got that off my chest — you know, investigative journalism, explanatory journalism, journalism that exposes corruption and justice gives voice to the different and the marginalized, the voiceless — that’s power. It’s a privilege. It’s as important to America’s trajectory, to our values, our ideals, to anything we could do in elected office.
We remember journalists we lost over the past year. Journalists like Steven Sotloff, and James Foley, murdered for nothing more than trying to shine a light into some of the world’s darkest corners.
We remember the journalists unjustly imprisoned around the world, including our own Jason Rezaian. For nine months, Jason has been imprisoned in Tehran for nothing more than writing about the hopes and the fears of the Iranian people, carrying their stories to the readers of “The Washington Post,” in an effort to bridge our common humanity. As was already mentioned, Jason’s brother Ali is here tonight and I have told him personally, we will not rest until we bring him home to his family safe and sound.
These journalists and so many others view their work as just a profession, but as a public good, an indispensable pillar of our society, so I want to give a toast to them.
I raise a glass to them and all of you, with the words of the American foreign correspondent Dorothy Thompson.
It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.
Thank you for your devotion to exercising our liberty and to telling our American story. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 26, 2015